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Original article
peer-reviewed

Analysis of Acute Non-specific Back Pain Content on TikTok: An Exploratory Study



Abstract

Introduction

In this study, we evaluated the scope of acute non-specific back pain (ANSBP) content available on TikTok (ByteDance Ltd, Beijing, China) in 2021. 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: (1) What are the metadata characteristics of the videos in the final data set?, (2) What are the creator identities reflected in the final data set in this study?, (3) What are the ANSBP self-care content themes in the final data set?, and (4) 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 creator identity in our data set of most popular videos. We examined videos created by chiropractors, fitness professionals, influencers, physicians, physiotherapists, and other creator identities. We found that the TikTok videos created by chiropractors were consistently among the most viewed, most commented, and most shared. Conversely, chiropractic TikTok videos consistently had the lowest self-care reference checklist scores relative to all other disciplines. That is, TikTok videos created 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 postulate that the messages reaching young TikTok users overall do not generally reflect the self-care advice described in consensus guidelines. 

Conclusion

TikTok is a popular social media channel among young people. However, the most viewed TikTok videos about ANSBP are not produced by mainstream health professionals and the 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.

Introduction

This exploratory study aims to increase the understanding of acute non-specific back pain (ANSBP) content available on TikTok (ByteDance Ltd, Beijing, China). This paper will also examine whether approaches used to analyse YouTube (Google LLC, Mountain View, California, United States) health videos can be applied to TikTok health content. Low back pain imposes a high social and financial burden in all countries across the globe [1]. In the introduction, we have examined the epidemiology of low back pain in younger populations, self-management and self-care of back pain, an overview of TikTok, and approaches to the analysis of health information on TikTok.

Epidemiology of ANSBP in younger populations

Acute low back pain is generally regarded as lasting less than six weeks [2]. In most cases, acute low back pain is non-specific [3,4]. The diagnosis of non-specific low back pain implies no known causes such as infection, tumour, fracture, aneurysm, or cauda equina [2]. ANSBP is also a leading cause of disability among teenagers, adolescents and young adults. Further, low back pain in adolescents and young adults is a significant risk factor for low back pain in adulthood [5,6]. Although ANSBP is common among younger people, it is usually not serious, and usually resolves within a few weeks.

Self-management and self-care of low back pain

Most people manage their low back pain with minimal assistance from health care providers. Independent management without assistance from health care providers is generally referred to as self-care [6]. By contrast, self-management implies health provider-guided patient management of a health condition such as back pain [7]. Researchers have suggested self-management and self-care involve active patient decision making, symptom monitoring, goal setting, and information searching [8]. There are features of social media platforms that may influence patient self-care decision making. For example, researchers have suggested anecdotal information on social media, including the number of views, comments, and likes may influence health decision making. However, indicators such as the number of views, comments, and likes of a TikTok video are not direct measures of influence on health decision making. Rather, these indicators represent video popularity [9-11]. As a consequence, it is plausible that TikTok’s popularity may influence decision making about what constitutes appropriate ANSBP self-care among a younger age cohort. In this study, we examined the most viewed TikTok health videos. These most-viewed TikTok videos may influence self-care decision making about ANSBP among TikTok users. Examination of self-care decision making about ANSBP among TikTok users is beyond the scope of this study.

About TikTok

TikTok is a video-sharing focused social networking service launched in 2018 [12,13]. TikTok hosts a variety of short videos, in fixed categories, including dance and fashion. The duration of these videos ranges from 15 seconds to 3 minutes. Since 2018, TikTok use has grown rapidly. In December 2018, TikTok globally had more than 271 million active monthly users, and 1 billion by September 2021 [14]. A 2021 national United States (US) Pew Research study found phone application users aged 18 to 24 years were likely to report using Instagram (76%), Snapchat (75%), or TikTok (55%) [15]. In 2020, 69% of the TikTok user base were aged 13 to 24 years [16]. In summary, TikTok is a popular social medium used by a younger age cohort. This age cohort is also likely to experience ANSBP.

Health information on TikTok

Google Scholar suggests scientific engagement with TikTok began in 2018. In 2021, health content on TikTok had still not been widely examined in scientific literature. In 2021, there was nascent literature on analysing TikTok videos for health self-care. Among the health care conditions researched were COVID-19 [17], diabetes [18], mental health [19], safe sex [20], dermatology [21], chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) [22], and oral health [23]. We did not identify any peer-reviewed papers examining TikTok video use for ANSBP.

TikTok has been associated with misinformation in the mass media. In 2021, media monitoring organisation NewsGuard reported COVID-19 vaccine misinformation directed at children aged under 13 on TikTok [24]. The creators suggested TikTok was not adequately monitoring health disinformation. Conversely, TikTok community guidelines are directed at preventing health disinformation [25]. TikTok has reported that community guidelines for creators, including health content, are strictly enforced [26]

Approaches to TikTok Health Video Analysis

TikTok in 2021 was a relatively novel medium for health content. The limited peer-reviewed health literature on TikTok in 2021 revealed heterogeneous approaches to research into this social media platform. However, by 2021, there was a larger body of research describing the use of YouTube videos to reach specific groups with condition-specific health messages. In 2021, YouTube was the second most popular social medium and the most popular video social medium [27]. The approaches to analyses of YouTube videos are more mature than that of TikTok. Given the similarities between YouTube and TikTok, we suggest that the methods of analysis of YouTube videos may be applicable to that of TikTok.

Several investigators have examined the methods used to analyse YouTube health content. Drozd and colleagues noted that most researchers develop independent scoring systems and that no commonly agreed on methods exist [28]. Systematic reviews of YouTube analysis methods have focused on the use of validated reference checklists and described the range of approaches and indicators across multiple studies [29,30]. In 2020, Zheluk and Maddock described three broad approaches to the analysis of YouTube health content [31]. These approaches were: (1) analysis of the video metadata exclusive of the content; the most common metadata elements included the number of views, video length, likes, date posted, and language of the video, (2) information quality of videos using validated instruments such as DISCERN (no abbreviation), Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Benchmark Criteria, and Health on the Net Foundation Code of Conduct (HONcode) to evaluate the quality of health information directed at consumers and clinicians; Lee and colleagues reviewed several approaches to assessing health information quality and among the common dimensions by these researchers were accuracy, completeness, consistency, timeliness, validity, and uniqueness [32], and (3) evaluation of video content by expert clinicians by comparing content to reference standards.

Researchers have adopted the methods used for analysing YouTube videos for analysing TikTok health content. These approaches include analysis of information quality using the DISCERN instrument, by creator professional background, by expert clinical review, or by metadata (for example, the number of views, number of comments and likes) [18,21,33]. This research study aims to increase the understanding of ANSBP content on TikTok and to further develop methods for analysing TikTok video content. 

Materials & Methods

This exploratory study aimed to evaluate the scope of ANSBP content available on TikTok in September 2021. In order to evaluate the scope of ANSBP TikTok content, 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 creator 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?.

We modified the methods developed by Zheluk and Maddock for their analysis of YouTube videos about acute non-specific low back pain (ALBP) [31]. First, in this study, we have assumed that ANSBP TikTok videos are viewed by patients for self-care guidance only (i.e., TikTok videos are viewed independent of health advice). The study by Zheluk and Maddock primarily focused on self-management guidance (i.e., videos intended to complement advice from health and fitness professionals). Second, we have modified the definition of ALBP used by Zheluk and Maddock to include all spinal pain. TikTok videos tagged with #backpain were included in our data set and, thus, include all spinal pain including neck pain. We have expanded the scope of included TikTok videos, as the result of limited anatomical localisation of the pain site in most videos reviewed in the final dataset. Third, in this project, we did not analyse information quality. Zheluk and Maddock found that the Brief DISCERN information quality instrument was less sensitive in identifying differences in the self-management content of YouTube videos than an evidence-based reference list [31]. Similarly, Azer and colleagues suggested that information quality tools were not suitable for analysis of YouTube video content [34].

Data collection and cleansing to obtain the final data set

We first identified ANSBP TikTok videos for analysis through three steps.

Step 1: Selection of Search Terms for Content Discovery

Users can access TikTok videos through the TikTok algorithm or hashtags (#). The TikTok algorithm will serve individualised content to each TikTok user [35]. Hashtags are a facilitator for discovery of specific themed content on TikTok. A single TikTok video may have multiple hashtags. We identified the hashtag “#backpain” as the most viewed relevant TikTok search term (Table 1). By September 2021, TikTok videos with #backpain had produced 1.3 billion views [36]. From a temporal perspective, the views on TikTok represent the aggregate global views of each individual #backpain TikTok video since publication. No national or subnational TikTok view data is publicly available

TikTok hashtag (#) Views as of September 30, 2021
#Backpain  1.3 billion views
#Backpainexercises  5.9 million views
#Backpainrelief  236.8 million views
#Chiropractic  3.8 billion views
#Diabetes  2.7 billion views
#Lowbackpain  347.2 million views
#Lowerbackpain  121.6 million views
#Physicaltherapy   1.1 billion views
#Physiotherapy 418.4 million views
#Stroke 499.1 million views
#Yoga  9.2 billion views

Step 2: Raw Data Set

We initially identified a raw data set of the 200 most viewed TikTok videos by searching for #backpain in the TikTok app on September 30, 2021. These 200 TikTok videos were our raw data set, which represented approximately 47% of all TikTok views for #backpain as of September 2021 [36]. Second, we downloaded the metadata for these TikTok videos. We used the TikTok scraper and downloader tool (TSDT) version 1.4.36 in order to scrape the metadata for #backpain TikTok videos in the raw data set [37]. Data scraping is the process of importing data from a website into a spreadsheet for further analysis [38] . The TSDT allows for downloading of metadata and video content for specified number of videos for a specific TikTok hashtag. The relevant fields contained in the metadata include the number of views of each video at the specified date, length, internet address, publisher, and date of publication.

Step 3: Cleansing the Raw Data to Produce the Final Data Set

Of the 200 TikTok videos identified, 43 non-English, duplicate, and not relevant TikTok videos unrelated to back or spinal pain were excluded. The final data set consisted of 157 TikTok videos in English that were relevant to ANSBP. Relevant videos were those that featured spinal pain as the primary theme. The final data set represented approximately 46% of all TikTok videos tagged with #backpain as of September 2021.

Research Questions

We used the final data set in order to answer four RQs.

RQ1: What are the Metadata Characteristics of Videos in the Final Data Set?

We used the metadata obtained via the TSDT to answer this question. Zheluk and Maddock used descriptive statistics to examine length of YouTube videos, the number of views, and channel names [31]. In this study, we used the following data fields: days since published to September 30, 2021, views (PlayCount), video duration, likes (DiggCount), shares, and comments. Through this approach, we were able to describe the metadata characteristics of the final data set.

RQ2: What are the TikTok Creator Identities in the Final Data Set?

We coded the 157 unique TikTok videos in the final data set according to the creator’s identity. We used the same author identities as Zheluk and Maddock did in their analysis of back pain YouTube videos [31]. We used the following six creator identities: chiropractor, fitness professional, influencer, physician, physiotherapist, and other. See Table 2 for creator identity definitions. Researchers have suggested that the creator’s identity contributes to user assessments of source credibility online [39].

Creator identity   Definition
Chiropractor   Self-identifies as chiropractor OR student of this discipline in TikTok video OR creator identity obtained through Internet search
Fitness   Self-identifies as fitness professional therapist in TikTok video OR creator identity obtained through Internet search
Influencer    No professional or commercial affiliation explicitly listed.
Physician   Self-identifies as medical /osteopathic physician OR student of this discipline in TikTok video OR creator identity obtained through Internet search. Note: US physicians may obtain medical registration through an osteopathic educational pathway.
Physiotherapy   Self-identifies as physiotherapist/physical therapist OR student of this discipline in TikTok video OR creator identity obtained through Internet search
Other   Commercial or other organisational affiliation listed explicitly in TikTok video OR creator identity obtained through Internet search. This includes religious healers, massage providers, yoga, sales, and education providers.

RQ3: What are the Intervention Themes in the Final Data Set?

We first coded each TikTok video according to one of three intervention themes: education, real-time exercise, or real-time treatment. See Table 3 for definitions of intervention themes. These intervention themes were used by Zheluk and Maddock to assess ALBP YouTube content [31]. Second, we analysed the three intervention themes according to creator identities. The six creator identities were: chiropractor, fitness professional, influencer, physician, physiotherapist, and other. 

Intervention Definition
Education More than 50% (i.e., the majority of the video) is dedicated to discussion of back pain content or associated aggravating or ameliorating factors including physical and mental health considerations
Exercise More than 50% (i.e., the majority of the video) is dedicated to real time exercise by clinician or other identity
Treatment More than 50% (i.e., the majority of the video) is dedicated to real-time hands-on treatment by clinician or other identity on another person, that does not involve exercise or education.

RQ4: What are the Characteristics of the Final Data Set Based on a Reference Checklist?

We analysed the final data set based on the ALBP reference checklist originally developed for the analysis of YouTube videos by Zheluk and Maddock [31]. See Table 4 for the reference checklist codebook. The YouTube checklist was based on recommended first-line ALBP items described by Foster et al. [40]. The checklist included items that an individual patient may reasonably be expected to independently implement as part of a self-management or self-care intervention for ALBP. For the purposes of this TikTok project, we have assumed ALBP self-care guidance is also suitable for ANSBP.

ANSBP Checklist  ANSBP codebook - definitions
Acute (Suitable for acute patients)   Exercise therapy [40] YES: The exercises are of appropriate intensity and scope for recent-onset ANSBP in a person aged under 40 of average fitness and flexibility level. There are no superior exercises - yoga, pilates, and walking are all equally effective for example.
NO: The exercises are not suitable as described above. 
ADL (Activities of daily living)    “Advice to remain active” [40] YES: At least ONE mention of ADL via narration, desk or visual images. This includes walking, modifying the environment, sport and recreation, modifying ADL, maintaining ADL. 
NO: No mention of ADL as described above
Analgesia   Superficial heat NSAIDs [40]  YES: At least one mention of:  (1) OTC pharmacological analgesia  OR  (2) non-pharmacological self-management described in guidelines (for example NSAIDs, heat, ice, pacing, ergonomics)
NO: No mentions of pharmacological or non-pharmacological analgesia; use of spinal manipulation.
Soothing affect   CBT/mindfulness-based stress reduction education [40]  YES: Is the video emotionally soothing overall? This includes education content, editing, music, encouraging fear or catastrophizing, loud or frantic narration
NO: Not soothing overall as per the description of the soothing affect as described above.
Appropriate Prognosis   Education [40] YES: Author describes: (1) Plausible prognosis consistent with ANSBP guidelines described by Foster et al. [40]. Primarily not overpromising. 
NO:  (1) Overpromising. Terms such as “fix”, “cure”, and “instant” indicate unrealistic prognosis. OR (2) No prognosis mentioned.
Red flags YES: At least one mention of referral to mainstream medical provider (medical practitioner, physiotherapist) for formal diagnosis and advice as a cautionary principle OR Mention of differential diagnoses or symptoms including cauda equina, renal problems, abdominal aortic aneurysm, cancer, infection, and fractures.
  NO: No mention of referral to mainstream medical provider (medical practitioner, physiotherapist) OR No mention of mainstream medical diagnosis for back pain

Intercoder reliability

Coding was conducted by the three authors of this study. Intercoder reliability was achieved through intercoder consensus [41,42]. Following initial coding by Author A, we conducted team-based coding with Authors B and C. We identified an initial discrepancy of 20 individual items within the 157 TikTok videos in the final data set. Following team negotiations, changes to TikTok coding and changes to the codebook were introduced. The final data set and codes represent a team consensus position. No Cohen’s Kappa or Krippendof Alpha tests were performed. In summary, by examining the characteristics of individual TikTok videos, we aimed to determine the relative concordance of TikTok videos produced by different creator identities with the consensus-based low back pain self-management guidelines. 

Results

We identified clear differences based on the creator’s identity in the TikTok final data set. We found that the TikTok videos created by chiropractors were consistently among the most viewed, most commented and most shared. Conversely, chiropractic TikTok videos generally had the lowest self-care reference checklist scores relative to all other disciplines. That is, TikTok videos created by chiropractors were least concordant with the reference checklist and, thus, these were least likely to reflect scientific consensus on treating ANSBP.

Metadata characteristics of the videos in the final data set

We examined six different metadata characteristics (Table 5). We found on average (mean), chiropractic TikTok videos had the most views (4,744,164); shortest duration (19.97 seconds), were the oldest (317 days), had the most likes, the most shares, and the most comments. The least popular TikTok videos were produced by physiotherapists. Physiotherapy TikTok videos were least viewed (1,583,240), least liked, least shared, and had the fewest comments. The longest videos were created by physicians (mean of 57 seconds).

Creator identity Days since published (Calculated November 8, 2021) Views  Duration video in seconds Likes  Shares  Comments 
Chiropractic 317 4,744,164 19.97 393,573 17,928 2814
Fitness 226 2,936,618 20.1 369,999 24,589 2132
Influencer 230 2,097,050 25 252,543 12,245 1588
Physician 207 2,280,350 57 159,983 8222 800
Physiotherapist 216 1,583,240 34 154,097 7905 768
Other 196 1,608,473 34 165,549 6313 786.5

TikTok creator identities in the final data set

We coded the 157 TikTok videos in the final data set into six creator identities (Table 6). Chiropractors were the most common identity creating TikTok videos in the final data set (46%; n=72), followed by fitness professionals (22%; n=34), physicians (3%; n=5), and physiotherapists (3%; n=5). In summary, the highest proportion of the final data set was created by chiropractors (Table 3).
 

Author identity Number of TikTok videos Percentage of TikTok videos
Chiropractic 72 46%
Fitness professional 34 22%
Influencer 30 19%
Physician 5 3%
Physiotherapist 5 3%
Other 11 7%
TOTAL  157 100%

Intervention themes in the final data set

We examined TikTok videos in the final data from the perspective of three types of intervention: education, exercises, or treatment (Table 7). The salient findings were: (1) videos by fitness professionals (71%; n=24) and chiropractics (63%; n=45) primarily featured exercise content; these TikTok videos generally offered a single exercise, with no information about frequency or duration, (2) videos by influencers primarily featured educational content (73%; n=22); these TikTok videos often featured suggestions about managing ANSBP throughout activities of daily living. The remaining creator identities were represented by a small number of TikTok videos, in which we could not identify a specific theme.

Author category 1. Education (n=42) 2. Exercise (n=83) 3. Treatment (n=32) Total (n=157)
Chiropractic n=7 (10%) n=45 (63%) n=20 (28%) n=72 (100%)
Fitness professional n=10 (29%) n=24 (71%) n=0 (0%) n=34 (100%)
Influencer n=22 (73%) n=5 (17%) n=3 (10%) n=30 (100%)
Physician n=1 (20%) n=2 (40%) n=2 (40%) n=5 (100%)
Physiotherapist n=1 (20%) n=3 (60%) n=1 (20%) n=5 (100%)
Other n=1 (9%) n=4 (36%) n=6 (55%) n=11 (100%)

Characteristics of the final data set based on a reference checklist

We analysed the final data set based on the reference checklist. We found differences in the self-care advice contained in TikTok videos based on creator identity (Table 8). Most notably, few videos under any creator identity carried any information about when to visit a medical professional, or red flags indicating potentially serious underlying pathology. Other salient findings were: (1) physiotherapy TikTok videos were most suitable for individuals in acute pain (100%; n=5), most frequently discussed analgesia (60%; n=3), and most frequently provided an appropriate prognosis (60%; n=3); however, the overall number of physiotherapist TikTok videos was small, and this result should be interpreted with caution, and (2) influencer created TikTok videos focused on personal experiences of pain resulting from activities of daily living (70%; n=21) and were most likely to feature an affective dimension (27%; n=8) than other creator identities. Finally, the data in Table 8 is nominal data and is not suitable for statistical analysis.

Creatoridentity 1. Acute (n=104) 2. ADL (n=49) 3. Analgesia (n=17) 4. Red Flag (n=3) 5. Affect (n=10) 6. Appropriate prognosis (n=19)
Chiropractic n=45 (63%) n=14 (19%) n=4 (6%) n=2 (3%) n=1 (1%) n=4 (7%)
Fitness professional n=17 (50%) n=11 (32%) n=2 (6%) n=1 (3%) n=0 (0%) n=9 (26%)
Influencer n=22 (73%) n=21 (70%) n=7 (23%) n=0 (0%) n=8 (27%) n=3 (10%)
Physician n=4 (40%) n=1 (20%) n=1 (20%) n=0 (0%) n=0 (0%) n=0 (0%)
Physiotherapist n=5 (100%) n=0 (0%) n=3 (60%) n=0 (0%) n=1 (20%) n=3 (60%)
Other n=10 (91%) n=2 (18%) n=0 (0%) n=0 (0%) n=0 (0%) n=0 (0%)

Discussion

TikTok is an increasingly popular medium for disseminating short health messages. This exploratory study aimed to evaluate the scope of ANSBP content available on TikTok as of September 2021. 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 by Foster et al. [35,40]. We found that methods used for the analysis of YouTube videos may also be adapted to the analysis of TikTok videos.

Metadata

The metadata for the final data set revealed that chiropractic TikTok videos were consistently the most viewed, commented, and shared in our data set. Zheluk and Maddock (also studying ANSBP) similarly found chiropractic videos were consistently the most commonly viewed and most commented videos on YouTube [31]. We did not identify peer-reviewed literature describing the popularity of chiropractic on social media. However, we identified grey literature describing the use of TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram as an important marketing channel by the chiropractic profession [43]. Specifically, this literature describes the focus on cracking sounds associated with spinal manipulation as a form of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR). These ASMR videos are explicitly directed at marketing the chiropractic profession [44]. ASMR refers to the sensations elicited in response to a range of sounds including whispering, spinal manipulation, and eating [45]. Further, chiropractic TikTok videos frequently feature young female patients wearing tight or limited clothing. See for example the TikTok video created by chiropractor Dr Alex [46]. In summary, this suggests TikTok is being actively used by the broader chiropractic profession as a marketing channel.

Creator identities

Chiropractors were the main creator identity identified in our study. Chiropractic TikTok videos in our data set were the oldest of all identities, with an average (mean) of 316 days since publication. This suggests chiropractors have been early adopters of TikTok as a medium. Chiropractic TikTok videos were also the most popular. The higher average age of chiropractic TikTok videos may partially account for their higher view counts. Zheluk and Maddock similarly found a high number of ANSBP videos on YouTube were created by chiropractors [31]. Further, in comparison with YouTube, we found a near absence of physiotherapists (3%; n=5), physicians (3%; n=5), and no videos from yoga instructors (0%) in the final data set. The absence of physiotherapists, physicians, and yoga instructors in #backpain TikTok videos is noteworthy. Zheluk and Maddock suggested video content created by these three disciplines was more consistently aligned with ALBP self-management guidelines than those created by chiropractors or fitness professionals. 

Intervention themes

We examined education, exercise, and treatment as potential intervention themes. The most common intervention theme in our data set was exercise. The limited information about duration, frequency, progression of exercises, and precautions suggest that individuals using this information may be more likely to gain little benefit or risk further pain and injury from conducting these exercises. The short mean duration of TikTok videos in our dataset (e.g., 19.97 seconds for chiropractic videos) compared to YouTube ALBP videos may influence content considerations. TikTok videos in our final dataset frequently featured a single activity. Activities included an exercise, a discussion of pain, or chiropractic manipulation. By contrast, YouTube videos generally offer a slower-paced and more comprehensive examination of low back pain topics. Influencers describing pain and activities of daily living were another notable finding. We coded these influencer TikTok videos as education.

Reference checklist

Overall, we found limited concordance between popular chiropractic and fitness TikTok videos and the ANSBP reference checklist. Most notably, few videos carried any information about when to visit a medical professional or any other precautionary information. This suggests that by excluding disclaimer information, the short duration of TikTok videos may expose creators to some medicolegal risk. Most identities similarly demonstrated limited concordance with the reference checklist. However, TikTok offers creators the option of creating three and five-minute videos. We found some of the longer videos offered greater scope for presenting content similar to YouTube. This suggests that TikTok has the potential to offer guideline-concordant content and more complex advice. Conversely, these longer videos may be less appealing to TikTok audiences [47].

Translation of methods from YouTube to TikTok

We believe that methods translated from YouTube, as described in this paper, may also be appropriate for the analysis of ANSBP video content on TikTok. Specifically, the methods that may be applied to TikTok videos include: (1) the analysis by creator identity to analyse TikTok metadata. The constantly changing popularity of individual TikTok videos suggests individual videos may not offer the optimal unit of analysis. We suggest an analysis of data sets aggregated by creator identity may provide a more consistent approach to the analysis of broader trends in TikTok health information; (2) The analysis of TikTok videos by intervention themes such as education, treatment, and exercise, in combination with creator identity and metadata appears to offer insights into the scope of health information available beyond simple description. These themes should be grounded themes, i.e., they should be based on analysis of the specific data set; and (3) the use of a reference checklist to assess TikTok videos against consensus guidelines as an approach to evaluating ANSBP content across social media.

Limitations

This paper had several limitations. First, we did not examine the literature on digital health interventions. This study examined the scope of ANSBP TikTok videos available in 2021. By conducting this study we also aimed to extend the methods used for the analysis of TikTok videos. Second, we did not examine TikTok videos from the perspective of misinformation. Suarez and colleagues define health misinformation as a “health-related claim that is based on anecdotal evidence, false, or misleading owing to the lack of existing scientific knowledge” [48]. In this study, we identified the use of misleading TikTok videos for marketing purposes by chiropractors. We suggest these TikTok videos appeared motivated by financial gain rather than lack of scientific knowledge and are thus not consistent with this definition of heath disinformation. While the presentation of misleading ANSBP information on TikTok merits consideration, this is beyond the scope of this study.

Further research

In this paper, we made limited comparisons between YouTube and TikTok from the perspective of translating methods for analysing videos across social media platforms. We believe further research that examines the optimal use of the unique features of each popular social media platform by various health disciplines is merited.

Second, there appear to be several opportunities for health professionals seeking to use TikTok for the dissemination of ANSBP information. We identified a potential demand for information about ADL based on TikTok videos produced by influencers. We suggest that the limited presence of mainstream health professionals such as physicians and physiotherapists offer opportunities to reach younger age cohorts with health messages about ANSBP and other health conditions. The use of TikTok by younger age cohorts to self-care and self-manage ANSBP thus also merits further research.

Third, we believe chiropractic TikTok videos merit further research. Chiropractic TikTok videos featuring young women and ASMR represent a novel health marketing phenomenon. We found TikTok videos created by chiropractors to be consistently rated poorly by coders against the ANSBP reference checklist. This marketing phenomenon may be influencing future expectations of what constitutes appropriate ANSBP care among younger TikTok users. 

Fourth, content analysis cannot examine the actual impact of TikTok videos on individual decision making. Future research may establish this causal relationship. In summary, TikTok is a popular social medium that is under-researched. This paper contributes to the TikTok methods literature and to the understanding of the scope of ANSBP information available on TikTok.

Conclusions

TikTok is a popular social media channel among young people and it is plausible that it may influence decision making about what constitutes appropriate ANSBP self-care in young people. However, we found that most messages reaching younger people about ANSBP self-care do not reflect evidence-informed guidelines. The most viewed TikTok videos about ANSBP are not produced by mainstream health professionals. There is scope for mainstream health professionals to provide evidence-informed self-management and self-care content for ANSBP. This requires that mainstream health professionals adopt creative approaches to transmit their ideas effectively via the novel TikTok social media platform.


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Appendices

NUMBER CHANNEL URL DISCIPLINE
  Chiropractic TikToks    
1 💫TheOsteoDr💫 https://www.tiktok.com/@theosteodr/video/6856464078626360582 Chiropractor
2 Aaron Kubal, DC https://www.tiktok.com/@aaron_kubaldc/video/6947867891475811590 Chiropractor
3 Aliya Visram https://www.tiktok.com/@draliyavisram/video/6914851658455436550 Chiropractor
4 BethaltoBackDoc https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.backcrack/video/6938506940486110469 Chiropractor
5 Daniel DeLucchi DC https://www.tiktok.com/@chiroseattle/video/6949706466429275398 Chiropractor
6 Daniel DeLucchi DC https://www.tiktok.com/@chiroseattle/video/6884378171639106822 Chiropractor
7 Daniel DeLucchi DC https://www.tiktok.com/@chiroseattle/video/6903914794022128902 Chiropractor
8 Daniel DeLucchi DC https://www.tiktok.com/@chiroseattle/video/6950423971397455109 Chiropractor
9 Daniel DeLucchi DC https://www.tiktok.com/@chiroseattle/video/6958219855187217670 Chiropractor
10 domenic https://www.tiktok.com/@domeniciniguez/video/6973420000283479301 Chiropractor
11 Dr Ali Elahi https://www.tiktok.com/@drelahi/video/6984174061165333766 Chiropractor
12 Dr Donovan Smolich https://www.tiktok.com/@drdonovan/video/6939957801770880262 Chiropractor
13 Dr Matt Pennell https://www.tiktok.com/@drmattpennell/video/6770810539246472453 Chiropractor
14 Dr. Alex https://www.tiktok.com/@occhiropractor/video/6825697649841245445 Chiropractor
15 Dr. Alex Tauberg DC CSCS https://www.tiktok.com/@thepittsburghchiro/video/6826723541837270278 Chiropractor
16 Dr. Alyssa Hickey https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.alyssanhickey/video/6816490019193359622 Chiropractor
17 Dr. Anthony Vuckovich https://www.tiktok.com/@victorychiropractic/video/6924078421848968449 Chiropractor
18 Dr. Ben https://www.tiktok.com/@drbenhorning/video/6880650101769915653 Chiropractor
19 Dr. Brenda Mondragon https://www.tiktok.com/@brenda_mondragon/video/6917670476877679877 Chiropractor
20 Dr. Brenda Mondragon https://www.tiktok.com/@brenda_mondragon/video/6992283351545679110 Chiropractor
21 Dr. Brenda Mondragon https://www.tiktok.com/@brenda_mondragon/video/6921826675038620934 Chiropractor
22 Dr. Brian Meenan DC https://www.tiktok.com/@pittsburgh_chiropractor/video/6814477599268490502 Chiropractor
23 Dr. Brian Meenan DC https://www.tiktok.com/@pittsburgh_chiropractor/video/6816849134792854789 Chiropractor
24 Dr. Chris Cooper https://www.tiktok.com/@drchriscooper/video/6748845723309067526 Chiropractor
25 Dr. Cracks https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.cracks/video/6818332046809746693 Chiropractor
26 Dr. Cracks https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.cracks/video/6919575028187090181 Chiropractor
27 Dr. Cracks https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.cracks/video/6840091379847138565 Chiropractor
28 Dr. Cracks https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.cracks/video/6865288520425114885 Chiropractor
29 Dr. Cracks https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.cracks/video/6915157542670716165 Chiropractor
30 Dr. Cracks https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.cracks/video/6868253899791289606 Chiropractor
31 Dr. Cracks https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.cracks/video/6847470009623547142 Chiropractor
32 Dr. Cracks https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.cracks/video/7001186897951345925 Chiropractor
33 Dr. Cracks https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.cracks/video/6821539509755235590 Chiropractor
34 Dr. Cracks https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.cracks/video/6830510490297306373 Chiropractor
35 Dr. Cracks https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.cracks/video/6826857573820501253 Chiropractor
36 Dr. Grant Elliott https://www.tiktok.com/@rehabfix/video/6958132865330711814 Chiropractor
37 Dr. Jimmy Sayegh https://www.tiktok.com/@kingofcracks/video/6916163209174977798 Chiropractor
38 Dr. Jimmy Sayegh https://www.tiktok.com/@kingofcracks/video/6850477410568162566 Chiropractor
39 Dr. Jimmy Sayegh https://www.tiktok.com/@kingofcracks/video/6915050096476294406 Chiropractor
40 Dr. Jimmy Sayegh https://www.tiktok.com/@kingofcracks/video/6944357238576336134 Chiropractor
41 Dr. Jimmy Sayegh https://www.tiktok.com/@kingofcracks/video/6858026719215947013 Chiropractor
42 Dr. Jimmy Sayegh https://www.tiktok.com/@kingofcracks/video/6982574991497809157 Chiropractor
43 Dr. Kyle Naylor https://www.tiktok.com/@drkylenaylor/video/6856919824900099334 Chiropractor
44 Dr. Mike https://www.tiktok.com/@drmichaelvan/video/6984856294297554181 Chiropractor
45 Dr. Patrick Karamkhodian, DC https://www.tiktok.com/@doctorkaramkhodian/video/6929923797919223045 Chiropractor
46 Dr. Rashad Trabulsi https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.rashad.trabulsi/video/6956288693585939714 Chiropractor
47 Dr. Remix https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.remix/video/6862145627661290758 Chiropractor
48 Dr. Remix https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.remix/video/6905199614635347205 Chiropractor
49 Dr. Remix https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.remix/video/6824603797994736902 Chiropractor
50 Dr. Remix https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.remix/video/6954533716525911302 Chiropractor
51 Dr. Remix https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.remix/video/6923413529647172870 Chiropractor
52 Dr. Remix https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.remix/video/6953806031390625029 Chiropractor
53 Dr. Remix https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.remix/video/6850611478697872646 Chiropractor
54 Dr. Remix https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.remix/video/6995376258909605125 Chiropractor
55 Dr. Remix https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.remix/video/6946368828314094854 Chiropractor
56 Dr. Remix https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.remix/video/6980145907052317958 Chiropractor
57 Dr. Remix https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.remix/video/6977544868855893253 Chiropractor
58 Dr. Remix https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.remix/video/6940814731645160710 Chiropractor
59 Dr. Remix https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.remix/video/6828382067546492166 Chiropractor
60 Dr. Remix https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.remix/video/6872201834849766662 Chiropractor
61 Dr. Remix https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.remix/video/6982391971998469381 Chiropractor
62 Dr. Remix https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.remix/video/6823143616030969094 Chiropractor
63 DrJustinDC https://www.tiktok.com/@weberspineandjoint/video/6840112110232521989 Chiropractor
64 Efecto Bienestar Quiropráctica https://www.tiktok.com/@efecto.bienestar.quiro/video/6856437456120679686 Chiropractor
65 Erdal Arsu https://www.tiktok.com/@erdalarsu/video/6955775187526765829 Chiropractor
66 Josh Adams https://www.tiktok.com/@drjoshadams/video/6992338421100383494 Chiropractor
67 Manhattan Wellness Group https://www.tiktok.com/@manhattanwellnessgroup/video/6950357114716048641 Chiropractor
68 Michael Oakson https://www.tiktok.com/@michael.oakson/video/6843217189844045061 Chiropractor
69 Michael Oakson https://www.tiktok.com/@michael.oakson/video/6871321368173104389 Chiropractor
70 Michael Oakson https://www.tiktok.com/@michael.oakson/video/6873586830076300550 Chiropractor
71 Norwood Chiropractic https://www.tiktok.com/@norwood.chiro/video/6974726857698708742 Chiropractor
72 Root Cause Medical Clinic https://www.tiktok.com/@rootcausemedicalclinic/video/6927734829375098118 Chiropractor
  FITNESS TIKTOKS    
1 Jake Abela https://www.tiktok.com/@jake_abelaa/video/6980612856567926018 Fitness
2 emma https://www.tiktok.com/@endometriosisem/video/6963355040425741574 Firtness
3 Stella Yang https://www.tiktok.com/@stellatoday/video/6891820204439964929 Fitiness
4 Arun Gray https://www.tiktok.com/@aginjuryrehab/video/6893188478402612482 Fitness
5 Beef patty https://www.tiktok.com/@leanbeefpatty/video/6959544199758859526 Fitness
6 Bones to Bulk https://www.tiktok.com/@bonestobulk/video/6771573634193476870 Fitness
7 cassey https://www.tiktok.com/@blogilates/video/6884603363997043974 Fitness
8 exercise & food https://www.tiktok.com/@beautifuldrinks/video/6951328015607532806 Fitness
9 Fitness¦At Home¦YogibeastV2 🔥 https://www.tiktok.com/@fitness_yogibeast_v2/video/6978273324564499718 Fitness
10 Fitness¦At Home¦YogibeastV2 🔥 https://www.tiktok.com/@fitness_yogibeast_v2/video/6926336472090037510 Fitness
11 Fitness¦At Home¦YogibeastV2 🔥 https://www.tiktok.com/@fitness_yogibeast_v2/video/6977902577090399493 Fitness
12 Fitness¦At Home¦YogibeastV2 🔥 https://www.tiktok.com/@fitness_yogibeast_v2/video/6944133830341184774 Fitness
13 Fitness¦At Home¦YogibeastV2 🔥 https://www.tiktok.com/@fitness_yogibeast_v2/video/6901844162648263942 Fitness
14 Fitness¦At Home¦YogibeastV2 🔥 https://www.tiktok.com/@fitness_yogibeast_v2/video/6988293989984144645 Fitness
15 Fitness¦At Home¦YogibeastV2 🔥 https://www.tiktok.com/@fitness_yogibeast_v2/video/6927078647601925382 Fitness
16 Fitness¦At Home¦YogibeastV2 🔥 https://www.tiktok.com/@fitness_yogibeast_v2/video/6964919544225762566 Fitness
17 Fitness¦At Home¦YogibeastV2 🔥 https://www.tiktok.com/@fitness_yogibeast_v2/video/6977532070344084742 Fitness
18 Fitness¦At Home¦YogibeastV2 🔥 https://www.tiktok.com/@fitness_yogibeast_v2/video/6918172625617341702 Fitness
19 Hybrid Calisthenics https://www.tiktok.com/@hybridcalisthenics/video/6865113800677330182 Fitness
20 Justin Agustin https://www.tiktok.com/@justin_agustin/video/6855686911722310917 fitness
21 Meg Iwama | Pain free fam✨ https://www.tiktok.com/@megumi.iwama/video/6931168392258882822 Fitness
22 Meg Iwama | Pain free fam✨ https://www.tiktok.com/@megumi.iwama/video/6917656170513616134 Fitness
23 Mike Bosh PAS https://www.tiktok.com/@postureguy/video/6938237139683462406 Fitness
24 MovementbyDavid https://www.tiktok.com/@movementbydavid/video/7000383385109531909 Fitness
25 MV Fitness https://www.tiktok.com/@mv_fitness_training/video/6975620029022784774 Fitness
26 MV Fitness https://www.tiktok.com/@mv_fitness_training/video/6975278978890337542 Fitness
27 MV Fitness https://www.tiktok.com/@mv_fitness_training/video/6991274717499886853 Fitness
28 MV Fitness https://www.tiktok.com/@mv_fitness_training/video/6993141618505207045 Fitness
29 MV Fitness https://www.tiktok.com/@mv_fitness_training/video/6976296377559141637 Fitness
30 Stella Yang https://www.tiktok.com/@stellatoday/video/6902447958776646914 Fitness
31 Stella Yang https://www.tiktok.com/@stellatoday/video/6904314386177903874 Fitness
32 Stella Yang https://www.tiktok.com/@stellatoday/video/6902055915327950082 Fitness
33 stormiebrooks_ https://www.tiktok.com/@stormiebrooks_/video/6934839611252395269 Fitness
34 Tanish Choudhary https://www.tiktok.com/@tanish.choudhary_/video/6855364414816750854 Fitness
  Influencer TikToks    
1 Collin https://www.tiktok.com/@collinurrmom/video/6904448761968266502 Influencer
2 ✨Ria✨ https://www.tiktok.com/@__ria9__/video/6884198026718498050 Influencer
3 Abbie Johnson https://www.tiktok.com/@beanie_333/video/7004616446831594757 Influencer
4 aileen <33 https://www.tiktok.com/@aileen.desireyyy/video/6991338920109821190 Influencer
5 AirwreckEye https://www.tiktok.com/@airwreckeye/video/6851364197133978886 Influencer
6 angela https://www.tiktok.com/@angelarobin99/video/6977188309814545670 Influencer
7 baileybitch https://www.tiktok.com/@..kitty_hello_/video/6965727976973487366 Influencer
8 Christian Romo https://www.tiktok.com/@iamchristianromo/video/6920015306438020358 Influencer
9 Conscious Mind ® https://www.tiktok.com/@consciousmind_/video/6984554482185014534 Influencer
10 drayton https://www.tiktok.com/@draytonpeterson/video/6918213013526891782 Influencer
11 Emily https://www.tiktok.com/@living.withem/video/6978137923854060806 Influencer
12 Erica💋 https://www.tiktok.com/@am.ericaxo/video/6806751399364381957 Influencer
13 Gary Vaynerchuk https://www.tiktok.com/@garyvee/video/6758233472445287686 Influencer
14 gracie o https://www.tiktok.com/@gracieeeeo/video/6841373190736841990 Influencer
15 Juwan Gutierrez https://www.tiktok.com/@misocolorful/video/6760434395863125254 Influencer
16 Karissa Morman https://www.tiktok.com/@karissamorman/video/6994530898175708422 Influencer
17 karol https://www.tiktok.com/@karolscorner/video/7001961826594360582 Influencer
18 Mai https://www.tiktok.com/@maiifinds/video/6968604276075564294 Influencer
19 malonesedinburgh https://www.tiktok.com/@malonesedinburgh/video/6993398963571395846 Influencer
20 MEL https://www.tiktok.com/@mellyd8845/video/6963394207671274757 Influencer
21 Rock Beef https://www.tiktok.com/@bowenrocky/video/6809482971410681094 Influencer
22 Rosalie https://www.tiktok.com/@rosaliebodyworks/video/6976405708065557765 Influencer
23 Sarah Spikeston https://www.tiktok.com/@sarahspikeston/video/6983666941063924997 Influencer
24 The Collective https://www.tiktok.com/@thecollectiveca/video/7000222327539535109 Influencer
25 The Man https://www.tiktok.com/@why_does_this_not_work/video/6946692100016622853 Influencer
26 Tik Toker https://www.tiktok.com/@donkey_meat/video/6992224622183828741 Influencer
27 veronica https://www.tiktok.com/@veronicagershonn/video/6970983618449526017 Influencer
28 Connor DeWolfe https://www.tiktok.com/@connordewolfe/video/6962726595589098757 Influencer
29 Kim Kine https://www.tiktok.com/@kim_kine/video/6908571880819625218 Influencer
30 Stacey Green https://www.tiktok.com/@staceygreenliving/video/6898779478776974594 Influencer
  Physician TikToks    
1 Dr. Michelle G. https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.mgmd/video/6831365039916649733 Physician
2 BT Osteopathy https://www.tiktok.com/@btosteopathy/video/6960850821437295877 Physician
3 BT Osteopathy https://www.tiktok.com/@btosteopathy/video/6987543766097808645 Physician
4 Stephanie Montrose https://www.tiktok.com/@stephaniemontrose/video/6984726411055500550 Physician
5 Stephanie Montrose https://www.tiktok.com/@stephaniemontrose/video/6975328448193531142 Physician
  Physiotherapy TikToks    
1 👨🏽‍⚕️Clayton Dir PT, DPT 🩺 https://www.tiktok.com/@tiktok_physio/video/6959613057517489414 Physiotherapy
2 Dr. Dan, DPT https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.dan_dpt/video/6831534268599078149 Physiotherapy
3 Mobility MedClinic Inc https://www.tiktok.com/@mobilitymedclinic/video/7004090059628547334 Physiotherapy
4 👨🏽‍⚕️Clayton Dir PT, DPT 🩺 https://www.tiktok.com/@tiktok_physio/video/6952959974720965893 Physiotherapy
5 Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy https://www.tiktok.com/@hulstjepsenpt/video/7001110734247628037 Physiotherapy
  Other TikToks    
1 Tom Loud https://www.tiktok.com/@tom.loud/video/6822092270725025029 Other
2 MediRestore https://www.tiktok.com/@medirestore/video/6937474125283773701 Other
3 Sleekform Kneeling Chairs https://www.tiktok.com/@sleekform/video/7003459089007267078 Other
4 Sleekform Kneeling Chairs https://www.tiktok.com/@sleekform/video/7003741779656838406 Other
5 Greg Gyuldemirian https://www.tiktok.com/@greggyuldemirian/video/6885890985876933893 Other
6 Moore Wellness https://www.tiktok.com/@moorewellness/video/6980850569615248645 Other
7 Moore Wellness https://www.tiktok.com/@moorewellness/video/6981959221638122758 Other
8 Moore Wellness https://www.tiktok.com/@moorewellness/video/6988229851190709510 Other
9 Moore Wellness https://www.tiktok.com/@moorewellness/video/6980113610152463621 Other
10 Reyna https://www.tiktok.com/@reynacohan/video/6961546204115111173 Other
11 IOHA https://www.tiktok.com/@instituteofhumananatomy/video/6787103439676558598 Other

Original article
peer-reviewed

Analysis of Acute Non-specific Back Pain Content on TikTok: An Exploratory Study


Author Information

Andrey Zheluk Corresponding Author

School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, AUS

Judith Anderson

School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, AUS

Sarah Dineen-Griffin

School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, AUS


Ethics Statement and Conflict of Interest Disclosures

Human subjects: All authors have confirmed that this study did not involve human participants or tissue. Animal subjects: All authors have confirmed that this study did not involve animal subjects or tissue. Conflicts of interest: In compliance with the ICMJE uniform disclosure form, all authors declare the following: Payment/services info: All authors have declared that no financial support was received from any organization for the submitted work. Financial relationships: All authors have declared that they have no financial relationships at present or within the previous three years with any organizations that might have an interest in the submitted work. Other relationships: All authors have declared that there are no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.



Original article
peer-reviewed

Analysis of Acute Non-specific Back Pain Content on TikTok: An Exploratory Study


Figures etc.

SIQ
8.3
RATED BY 3 READERS
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