In addition, people in the treatment groups had significantly greater reductions in disability, depression and anxiety than the patients wait-listed for the online courses.
One limitation of the study, the researchers acknowledge in the journal Pain online May 30, is that the study didn’t examine what therapies people received in the control group getting “treatment as usual,” which makes it impossible to know if people in that group would have recovered without any treatment.
Also, because all of the study participants asked to join a web-based symptom management program, it’s possible the results would be different among people not seeking out this type of care, the authors note.
It’s also possible that, given more than just the three months of follow up, more differences would emerge between the treatment groups, said Christine Rini, a behavioral health researcher at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
“More broadly speaking, it may be that the most critical information that patients get from doctors working with an internet-based pain management program is communicated relatively quickly, and that additional contact does not really matter,” Rini, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.