Got Pain? There’s an App for That

Online pain management successful in helping patients manage symptoms


If you have chronic pain, a new online program might help.

A new study from Australia found that adults with chronic pain who used Web-based pain management tutorials had less pain and disability after six months.

“While face-to-face pain management programs are important, many adults with chronic pain can benefit from programs delivered via the internet, and many of them do not need a lot of contact with a clinician in order to benefit,” said lead study author Blake Dear, a psychology researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, per Reuters.

Dr. Dear and team looked at 490 Australian adults who had seen a doctor for chronic pain within three months of this study.

These patients had no complications, such as psychotic illness or severe depression, and all had regular access to a computer and the Internet.

Dr. Dear and team divided the patients into three groups. Each group used an online pain management tutorial program. This program included five Web-based lessons that focused on pain management using cognitive behavior therapy techniques.

Group 1 had regular contact with a doctor, Group 2 had optional contact and Group 3 had no contact (except in the case of an emergency). Group 4 — the control group — followed their usual routine of care with a doctor and did not use the online program.

Patients in the regular contact group received services, such as email or phone conversations with their doctors. This contact amounted to about 68 minutes per week on average. In contrast, the optional group had about 13 minutes a week on average of contact with their doctors.

After 8 weeks, all three groups reported a 18 percent reduction in disability and a 32 percent reduction in anxiety. In addition, all three groups reported a 36 percent reduction in depression and a 12 percent reduction in pain levels.

These improvements were sustained or improved after three months, and there were no major differences in the online groups.

According to Dr. Dear and team, these findings suggest that patients with chronic pain may be able to use these online tools to manage their symptoms, lessening the need for frequent doctor visits.

This study was published in the June issue of the journal Pain.

The Motor Accidents Authority of New South Wales and the National Health and Medical Research Council funded this research.

Dr. Dear and study author Nickolai Titov, PhD, received funding from the Australian government to develop and provide a free national online assessment and treatment service.