Web-Based Interventions for Chronic Back Pain: A Systematic Review

Background: Chronic low back pain is one of the most common presenting complaints to a physician's office. Treatment is often challenging and recovery depends on various factors, often resulting in significant investments of time and resources.
Objective: The aim of this review is to determine which Web-based interventions aimed at chronic low back pain are of benefit to patients.
Methods: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) studying Web-based interventions directed at adults with chronic low back pain were included. Retrospective studies, narrative reviews, nonrandomized trials, and observational studies were excluded. Electronic databases and bibliographies were searched.
Results: In total, nine unique RCTs were identified (total participants=1796). The number of patients randomized in each trial ranged from 51 to 580. Four trials studied online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and five trials studied other Web-based interventions with interactive features. Empowerment/control was improved in six studies. Use of CBT was associated with reduced catastrophization among patients. Mixed results were reported with regards to reduction in pain levels and disability, although some studies showed promise in reducing disability in the short term. One study that measured health care utilization reported reduced utilization with the use of moderated email discussion.
Conclusions: Limited data are available regarding effective Web-based interventions to improve outcomes for patients with chronic low back pain. Nine RCTs with small sample sizes were identified in this review. Online CBT appears to show some promise in terms of reducing catastrophization and improving patient attitudes. Further research in this area with larger-scale studies focusing on appropriate outcomes appears to be a priority.

Source: Shashank Garg, Divya Garg, Tanvir C Turin, M Faruq U Chowdhury. J Med Internet Res, 2016; 18 (7), p. e139.

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