Clinical Outcomes After a Digital Musculoskeletal Program for Acute and Subacute Pain: Observational, Longitudinal Study With Comparison Group

JMIR Rehabil Assist Technol. 2022 Jun 27;9(2):e38214. doi: 10.2196/38214.

Abstract

Background: Telerehabilitation for musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions may produce similar or better outcomes than usual care, but most telerehabilitation studies address only chronic or postsurgical pain.

Objective: We aimed to examine pain and function at 3, 6, and 12 weeks for individuals with acute and subacute MSK pain who took part in a digital MSK program versus a nonparticipant comparison group.

Methods: We conducted an observational, longitudinal study with a nonparticipant comparison group. The intervention group had video visits with physical therapists who recommended exercise therapies and educational articles delivered via an app. Nonparticipants were those who were registered but unable to participate because their benefit coverage had not yet begun. We collected pain and function outcomes through surveys delivered at 3-, 6-, and 12-week follow-ups. We conducted descriptive analyses, unadjusted regression, and mixed effects regression adjusting for baseline characteristics, time as fixed effects, and a time*group interaction term.

Results: The analysis included data from 675 nonparticipants and 262 intervention group participants. Compared to baseline, the intervention group showed significantly more pain improvement at 3, 6, and 12 weeks versus nonparticipants after adjusting for baseline factors. Specifically, the intervention group's pain scores decreased by 55.8% at 3 weeks versus baseline, 69.1% at 6 weeks, and 73% at 12 weeks. The intervention group's adjusted pain scores decreased from 43.7 (95% CI 41.1-46.2) at baseline to 19.3 (95% CI 16.8-21.8) at 3 weeks to 13.5 (95% CI 10.8-16.2) at 6 weeks to 11.8 (95% CI 9-14.6) at 12 weeks. In contrast, nonparticipants' pain scores decreased by 30.8% at 3 weeks versus baseline, 45.8% at 6 weeks, and 46.7% at 12 weeks. Nonparticipants' adjusted pain scores decreased from 43.8 (95% CI 42-45.5) at baseline to 30.3 (95% CI 27.1-33.5) at 3 weeks to 23.7 (95% CI 20-27.5) at 6 weeks to 23.3 (95% CI 19.6-27) at 12 weeks. After adjustments, the percentage of participants reporting that pain was better or much better at follow-up was significantly higher by 40.6% at 3 weeks, 31.4% at 6 weeks, and 31.2% at 12 weeks for intervention group participants versus nonparticipants. After adjustments, the percentage of participants with meaningful functional improvement at follow-up was significantly higher by 15.2% at 3 weeks and 24.6% at 12 weeks for intervention group participants versus nonparticipants.

Conclusions: A digital MSK program may help to improve pain and function in the short term among those with acute and subacute MSK pain.

Keywords: acute; clinical; digital health; eConsult; eHealth; education material; education resource; exercise; function; health app; health resource; intervention; longitudinal study; mHealth; mobile health; musculoskeletal; observational study; pain; patient education; physical activity; physical therapist; physical therapy; physiotherapist; physiotherapy; quality of life; subacute; telehealth; telemedicine; video consult; virtual care.