Telephone cognitive behavioural therapy to prevent the development of chronic widespread pain: a qualitative study of patient perspectives and treatment acceptability

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2019 May 10;20(1):198. doi: 10.1186/s12891-019-2584-2.


Background: Telephone cognitive behavioural therapy (tCBT) is an acceptable and effective treatment for patients with chronic widespread pain (CWP). Preventing the onset of CWP offers considerable benefits to the individual and society and the MAmMOTH study is the first aimed at CWP prevention. The study is a two-arm randomised trial testing a course of tCBT against usual care for prevention of CWP. This nested qualitative study explores patients' treatment experiences, with a view to understanding their potential influences on acceptability of the intervention.

Methods: The MAmMOTH Study recruited 1002 participants, half of whom were randomised to receive tCBT. Participants were eligible for invitation to the trial if they had pain for which they had consulted their GP, or had pain and visited a doctor frequently, and had 2 of 3 risk factors for development of CWP. Participants randomised to tCBT who had completed treatment were eligible for invitation to qualitative interviews for this study. Individual qualitative interviews were conducted with a sub-sample (n = 33) of patients at high risk of developing CWP who had been allocated to the intervention arm. Semi-structured telephone interviews explored treatment experiences and intervention acceptability. Data was analysed using Framework analysis.

Results: Participants presented with a range of musculoskeletal and auto-immune conditions and almost half described their pain as 'chronic' on study entry. Many participants perceived the trial intervention to be aimed at treatment of pain rather than prevention of pain. Initial expectations prior to treatment varied, with scepticism more likely for those who had little prior knowledge of CBT approaches. All participants provided positive feedback post intervention particularly in relation to the modality, therapist experience and skills and the intervention. The majority of participants described positive changes in either their subjective level of pain or pain-management post-intervention and some attributed the positive change directly to the intervention as a result of empowerment, increased self-management and cognitive restructuring.

Conclusions: This study extends our understanding of the acceptability and suitability of preventative interventions for chronic widespread pain and provides further evidence for the acceptability of tCBT.

Trial registration: Clinical NCT02668003 (registered 29th January, 2016).

Keywords: Chronic widespread pain; Patient perspectives; Prevention; Qualitative; Telephone cognitive behavioural therapy; Treatment acceptability.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / statistics & numerical data
  • Telemedicine / methods*
  • Telephone
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data