Analysis of Acute Non-specific Back Pain Content on TikTok: An exploratory study

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Introduction: In this study we evaluated the scope of acute non-specific back pain (ANSBP) content available on TikTok in 2021. Low back pain imposes a high social and financial burden in all countries across the globe. ANSBP is a leading cause of disability among teenagers, adolescents and young adults. It is plausible that TikTok’s popularity among teenagers, adolescents and young adults may influence decision making about what constitutes appropriate ANSBP self-care among a younger age cohort.

Methods: We examined 157 of the most viewed videos available through the hashtag #backpain available on TikTok in September 2021. We examined the following research questions (RQs). RQ1: What are the metadata characteristics of the videos in the final data set?; RQ2: What are the author identities reflected in the final data set in this study?; RQ3: What are the ANSBP self-care content themes in the final data set?; and RQ4: What are the characteristics of the data set based on a low back pain reference checklist based on consensus guidelines?.

Results: We identified clear differences based on TikTok author’s identity in our data set of most popular videos. We examined videos authored by chiropractors, fitness professionals, influencers, physicians, physiotherapists, and other author identities. We found that the TikTok’s authored by chiropractors were consistently among the most viewed, most commented and most shared. Conversely, chiropractic TikTok’s consistently had the lowest self-care reference checklist scores relative to all other disciplines. That is, TikTok’s authored by chiropractors were least likely to reflect the scientific consensus on treating ANSBP.

Discussion: TikTok is an increasingly popular medium for disseminating short health messages. The main cohort using TikTok is young and at risk of ANSBP. However, we suggest that the messages reaching young TikTok users overall do not generally reflect the self-care advice described in consensus guidelines. Further, we found methods used for analysis of YouTube videos may also be adapted to the analysis of TikToks.

Conclusion: TikTok is a popular social media channel among young people. However, the most viewed TikTok’s about ANSBP are not produced by mainstream health professionals. The most viewed TikTok videos featuring the #backpain hashtag do not generally reflect contemporary evidence based practice. There is considerable scope for mainstream health professionals to provide evidence informed self-management and self-care content for ANSBP on TikTok.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere21404
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2022


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