A Randomized Trial of a Lay Person-Led Self-Management Group Intervention for Back Pain Patients in Primary Care

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Study Design.Randomized, controlled trial.Objective.To evaluate a four-session self-management group intervention for patients with pain in primary care, led by trained lay persons with back pain. The intervention was designed to reduce patient worries, encourage self-care, and reduce activity limitations.Background Data.Randomized trials of educational interventions suggest that activating interventions may improve back pain outcomes. Expert opinion increasingly regards effective self-management of back pain as important in achieving good outcomes. In this study, an educational intervention designed to activate patients and support effective self-management was evaluated.Methods.Six to 8 weeks after a primary care visit for back pain, patients were invited to participate in an educational program to improve back pain self-management. Those showing interest by returning a brief questionnaire became eligible for the study. Participants (n = −255) randomly were assigned to either a self-management group intervention or to a usual care control group. The effect of the intervention, relative to usual care, was assessed 3, 6, and 12 months after randomization, controlling for baseline values. The intervention consisted of a four-session group applying problem-solving techniques to back pain self-management, supplemented by educational materials (book and videos) supporting active management of back pain. The groups were led by lay persons trained to implement a fully structured group protocol. The control group received usual care, supplemented by a book on back pain care.Results.Participants randomly assigned to the self-management groups reported significantly less worry about back pain and expressed more confidence in self-care. Roland Disability Questionnaire Scores were significantly lower among participants in the self-management groups relative to the usual care controls at 6 months (P = 0.007), and this difference was sustained at 12 months at borderline significance levels (P = 0.09). Among self-management group participants, 48% showed a 50% or greater reduction in Roland Disability Questionnaire Score at 6 months, compared with 33% among the usual care controls.Conclusions.Self-management groups led by trained lay persons following a structured protocol were more effective than usual care in reducing worries, producing positive attitudes toward self-care, and reducing activity limitations among patients with back pain in primary care.

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