To compare the efficacy of mental health professional versus primary care nurse-delivered telehealth cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and supportive care (SC) treatments for chronic low back pain, using data from 2 separate randomized controlled trials. Both trials were completed in the same hospital and used the same study design, research team, and outcome measures.
Materials and Methods:
Participants from Study 1 (Mental Health Professional Study) (N=66; 2007 to 2011) and Study 2 (Nursing Study) (N=61; 2012 to 2016) were patients with chronic low back pain (≥4/10 intensity) randomized to either an 8-week CBT or an SC telehealth condition matched for contact frequency, format, and time. Participants completed validated measures of improvement in back pain disability (Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire [RMDQ]), pain intensity (Numeric Rating Scale [NRS]), depressive symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory 2 [BDI-2]), pain catastrophizing (Pain Catastrophizing Scale [PCS]), and overall improvement (Global Clinical Impressions [GCI]).
Intent-to-treat analyses at posttreatment showed that scores on the RMDQ (Cohen d=0.33 to 0.55), NRS (d=0.45 to 0.90), PCS (d=0.21 to 0.41), and GCI (18.5% to 39.1%) improved significantly in both studies and in both treatments from pretreatment to posttreatment. Changes in BDI scores were inconsistent (d=−0.06 to 0.51). The analyses revealed no significant differences in treatment efficacy between the trained nurse versus the mental health professionals on the RMDQ, NRS, PCS, or GCI measures (P>0.20).
Results from these clinical trials suggest that the benefits of home-based, telehealth-delivered CBT and SC treatments for chronic back pain were comparable when delivered by a primary care nurse or mental health professional.