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Finding Ways to Lift Barriers to Care for Chronic Pain Patients: Outcomes of Using Internet-Based Self-Management Activities to Reduce Pain and Improve Quality of Life
Background: Chronic pain is prevalent, disabling, costly, and undertreated.There is clearly a need to improve patient understanding of ways to manage their pain. Internet-based programs are continually being developed to facilitate mental health improvement, providing tailored content for patients to manage their pain, anxiety, and depression. Objective: To evaluate the impact of Internetbased patient self-management education and activities on patients' pain, anxiety, and quality of life in patientswho could not access multidisciplinary pain management. Design: Observational study. Subjects: Two hundred (200) patients (61% females, 39% males, between 18 and 75 years old) from one community pain clinic in Toronto, Canada (Toronto Poly Clinic), participated. Patients had moderate to severe pain, depression, and anxiety. These patients committed to study from a group of 515 patients with chronic noncancer pain of different origins who were stable on their levels of pain, anxiety, and depression for 12 consecutive months before start of study and could not afford noninsured treatment modalities like physiotherapy, psychology, nutrition, or exercise therapy consultation. Methods: Patients were encouraged to visit two Internet sites (a blog and Twitter postings) for educational postings written by the author about exercise, nutrition, mindfulness meditation, disease management methods, evidence-based supplements, daily relaxation exercises, and overall self-management methods 15 minutes per day for six months. Patients were also encouraged to share their ideas and comments on a blog. Activity logs were kept by patients and reviewed by physician at follow-up visits. Compliance was encouraged via weekly email reminders and phone calls during the observation period. Results: Modest improvements were noted in pain, anxiety, depression, and quality of life. Of the patients with moderate or severe pain before treatment, 45% reported mild levels of pain after treatment, with a reduction of severe pain from 40% before treatment to 25%after treatment (P value 0.0184). Conclusion: Self-management support interventions, such as Internet-based educational tools, can be considered to help patientsmanage their chronic pain, depression, and anxiety and may be helpful to improve the treatment outcome in patients who could not otherwise afford noninsured services.
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