A randomized controlled evaluation of an online chronic pain self management program

Linda S. Ruehlman, Paul Karoly, Craig Enders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


Internet-based educational and therapeutic programs (e-health applications) are becoming increasingly popular for a variety of psychological and physical disorders. We tested the efficacy of an online Chronic Pain Management Program, a comprehensive, fully self-directed and self-paced system that integrates social networking features and self-management tools into an interactive learning environment. Of 305 adult participants (196 women, 109 men), a total of 162 individuals with chronic pain were randomly assigned unsupervised access to the program for approximately 6 weeks; 143 were assigned to the wait-listed control group with treatment as usual. A comprehensive assessment was administered before the study and approximately 7 and 14 weeks thereafter. All recruitment, data collection, and participant involvement took place online. Participation was fully self-paced, permitting the evaluation of program effectiveness under real-world conditions. Intent-to-treat analysis that used linear growth models was used as the primary analytic tool. Results indicated that program utilization was associated with significant decreases in pain severity, pain-related interference and emotional burden, perceived disability, catastrophizing, and pain-induced fear. Further, program use led to significant declines in depression, anxiety, and stress. Finally, as compared to the wait-listed control group, the experimental group displayed a significant increase in knowledge about the principles of chronic pain and its management. Study limitations are considered, including the recognition that not all persons with chronic pain are necessarily good candidates for self-initiated, self-paced, interactive learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-330
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • Catastrophizing
  • Chronic pain management
  • Controlled trial
  • Coping with pain
  • Internet treatment
  • Pain adjustment
  • Self-management
  • Treatment for chronic pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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