Interactive sections of an Internet-based intervention increase empowerment of chronic back pain patients: Randomized controlled trial

Silvia Riva, Anne Linda Camerini, Ahmed Allam, Peter J. Schulz

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77 Scopus citations


Background: Chronic back pain (CBP) represents a significant public health problem. As one of the most common causes of disability and sick leave, there is a need to develop cost-effective ways, such as Internet-based interventions, to help empower patients to manage their disease. Research has provided evidence for the effectiveness of Internet-based interventions in many fields, but it has paid little attention to the reasons why they are effective. Objective: This study aims to assess the impact of interactive sections of an Internet-based self-management intervention on patient empowerment, their management of the disease, and, ultimately, health outcomes. Methods: A total of 51 patients were recruited through their health care providers and randomly assigned to either an experimental group with full access to the Internet-based intervention or a control group that was denied access to the interactive sections and knew nothing thereof. The intervention took 8 weeks. A baseline, a mid-term after 4 weeks, and a final assessment after 8 weeks measured patient empowerment, physical exercise, medication misuse, and pain burden. Results: All patients completed the study. Overall, the intervention had a moderate effect (F1.52=2.83, P=.03, η2=0.30, d=0.55). Compared to the control group, the availability of interactive sections significantly increased patient empowerment (midterm assessment: mean difference=+1.2, P=.03, d=0.63; final assessment: mean difference=+0.8, P=.09, d=0.44) and reduced medication misuse (midterm assessment: mean difference=-1.5, P=.04, d=0.28; final assessment: mean difference=-1.6, P=.03, d=-0.55) in the intervention group. Both the frequency of physical exercise and pain burden decreased, but to equal measures in both groups. Conclusions: Results suggest that interactive sections as part of Internet-based interventions can positively alter patients' feelings of empowerment and help prevent medication misuse. Detrimental effects were not observed. Trial Registration: NCT02114788; (Archived by WebCite at

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e180
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
©Silvia Riva, Anne-Linda Camerini, Ahmed Allam, Peter J Schulz.


  • Chronic back pain
  • Decision
  • Gamification
  • Health
  • Health outcomes
  • Interactivity
  • Internet-based intervention
  • Medication misuse
  • Pain burden
  • Patient empowerment
  • Physical activity


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