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European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine 2018 June;54(3):358-70

DOI: 10.23736/S1973-9087.17.04716-5


language: English

Effectiveness of subgroup-specific pain rehabilitation: a randomized controlled trial in patients with chronic back pain

Martin L. VERRA 1, 2 , Felix ANGST 1, Roberto BRIOSCHI 1, Susanne LEHMANN 1, Thomas BENZ 1, André AESCHLIMANN 1, Rob A. DE BIE 3, J. Bart STAAL 4

1 RehaClinic Rehabilitation Clinic, Bad Zurzach, Switzerland; 2 Department of Physiotherapy, Insel Group, Bern University Hospital, Berne, Switzerland; 3 Department of Epidemiology and Caphri Research School, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands; 4 Scientific Institute for Quality of Healthcare, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands


BACKGROUND: Prospective classification of patients with nonspecific chronic back pain into homogeneous subgroups might be an important objective in order to tailor interventions and improve treatment outcomes.
AIM: This study investigated the effect of a subgroup-specific pain rehabilitation program based on the Multidimensional Pain Inventory (MPI) Classification System compared to standard care.
DESIGN: Single blinded, parallel group, pragmatic randomized controlled trial.
SETTING: Inpatient subjects of a rehabilitation clinic.
POPULATION: A total of 139 patients with chronic back pain.
METHODS: Patients in both the experimental group and control group received during their 4-week in-house stay at the rehabilitation clinic on average four daily sessions of therapy. The patients in the experimental group received specific interventions, which were tailored to their subgroup classification profile. The patients in the control group participated in state-of-the-art care. The primary outcome was self-reported disability measured at 1, 3 and 12 months after randomization with the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI). Secondary outcomes were pain intensity, examiner-reported disability, anxiety and depression, catastrophizing, self-efficacy and global perceived effect.
RESULTS: Groups were comparable under demographic and clinical characteristics. No significant differences between the experimental group and the control group for any of the outcomes and follow-up times were found in the intention-to-treat analysis. Compared to the 8-10 points considered as minimal clinically important difference for the ODI, effects within groups were small, e.g. the experimental group improved by 2.2 points at 1-month follow-up, 3.7 points at 3 months and 5.3 points at 12 months.
CONCLUSIONS: This study failed to demonstrate that a subgroup-specific program was more effective than standard care.
CLINICAL REHABILITATION IMPACT: Since the subgroup-specific interventions were equally effective as standard pain rehabilitation, subgroup classification and tailoring interventions may be an alternative in clinical care.

KEY WORDS: Back pain - Rehabilitation - Physical therapy modalities

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