In Appendix 1, you can find a list of about 100 systematic SMT reviews on any patient-reported outcome that we could find. In Appendix 2, you can find the 442 references from those reviews. If you’re looking for research – there is something in here for everyone



Systematic reviews (SRs) of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are considered one of the most reliable study types. Through a systematic and thorough literature search, researchers aim to collect all research relevant to their purpose. The selection of databases can be challenging and depend on the topic of interest. The Cochrane Handbook suggests searching at least the following three databases: Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, and EMBASE. However, this is not always sufficient for reviews on the musculoskeletal field in general.

This study aimed to examine the frequency and choice of databases used by researchers in SRs of spinal manipulative therapy (SMT). Secondly, to analyze the RCTs included in the SRs to determine the optimal combination of databases needed to conduct efficient literature searches for SRs of SMT.


SRs investigating the effect of SMT on any patient-reported outcome measure were identified through searches in PubMed and Epistemonikos (all entries till date of search February 25, 2022). For each SR, databases searched and included RCTs were collected. RCTs were searched individually in nine databases (Cochrane Library, MEDLINE/PubMed, EMBASE, Google Scholar, CINAHL, Web of Science, Index to Chiropractic Literature, PEDro, and AMED). Coverage rates were calculated using the number of retrieved RCTs by the database or combinations of databases divided by the total number of RCTs.


Eighty-five SRs published met the inclusion criteria, and 442 unique RCTs were retrieved. The most frequently searched database was MEDLINE/PubMed. Cochrane Library had the highest overall coverage rate and contained the third most unique RCTs. While a 100% retrieval was not possible, as 18 RCTs could not be retrieved in any of the nine databases, the combination of Cochrane Library, Google Scholar, and PEDro retrieved all possible RCTs with a combined coverage rate of 95.9%.


For SRs on SMT, we recommend using the combination suggested by the Cochrane Handbook of Cochrane Library, MEDLINE/PubMed, Embase, and in addition, PEDro and Index to Chiropractic Literature. Google Scholar might be used additionally as a tool for searching gray literature and quality assurance.

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