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INTRODUCTION: The effectiveness of complex interventions for the management of musculoskeletal disorders has been estimated in many randomised clinical trials (RCTs). These trials inform which interventions are the most effective, however they do not always inform how an intervention achieved its clinical outcomes, nor how and what elements of an intervention were delivered to patients. Such information is useful for translating findings into clinical practice. A few process evaluation studies have been conducted alongside RCTs and a variety of methods have been used. To gain a better understanding of current practices of process evaluation in RCTs in musculoskeletal disorders, this systematic review is designed to answer the following research question: How are process evaluation of complex interventions tested in RCTs in musculoskeletal disorders being conducted? METHODS AND ANALYSIS: We will systematically search seven electronic databases (MEDLINE, SCOPUS, CINAHL, PsycINFO, EMBASE, Web of Science and Cochrane database) from the date of inception to August 2018 for studies on process evaluation of RCTs on non-surgical and non-pharmacological management of musculoskeletal disorders. We will include qualitative and quantitative studies conducted alongside RCTs, reported with the RCTs or separate studies that assessed interventions for musculoskeletal disorders. Two reviewers will screen abstracts and apply prespecified inclusion criteria to identify relevant studies, extract the data and assess the risk of bias within included studies. We will follow recommendations from the 'Cochrane Qualitative and Implementation Methods Group Guidance Series' when assessing methodological strengths and limitations of included studies. We will use a narrative synthesis to describe findings. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: Ethical approval is not required as this review will not collect original data. Findings from this systematic review will be presented at a scientific conference and published in a peer reviewed journal. PROSPERO REGISTRATION NUMBER: CRD42018109600.

Original publication




Journal article


Bmj open

Publication Date





implementation, musculoskeletal disorders, process evaluation, protocol, randomised clinical trial, systematic review