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J Med Internet Res. 2017 Nov 10;19(11):e385. doi: 10.2196/jmir.8826.

Tailored Web-Based Interventions for Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.

Martorella G#1,2,3, Boitor M#4, Berube M#4,5,6, Fredericks S7, Le May S3,8,9, Gélinas C#3,4,10,11,12.

Author information

College of Nursing, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, United States.
Tallahassee Memorial Hospital Center for Research and Evidence-Based Practice, Tallahassee, FL, United States.
Quebec Nursing Intervention Research Network (RRISIQ), Montreal, QC, Canada.
Ingram School of Nursing, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Department of Trauma, Centre Integré Universitaire du Nord de l'Île de Montréal, Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Department of Nursing, Centre Integré Universitaire du Nord de l'Île de Montréal, Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing, Ryerson University, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Faculté des sciences infirmières, Université de Montréal, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Centre de recherche, Centre hospitalier universitaire Ste Justine, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Center for Nursing Research, Jewish General Hospital, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Lady Davis Institute, Jewish General Hospital, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Contributed equally



Efforts have multiplied in the past decade to underline the importance of pain management. For both acute and chronic pain management, various barriers generate considerable treatment accessibility issues, thereby providing an opportunity for alternative intervention formats to be implemented. Several systematic reviews on Web-based interventions with a large emphasis on chronic pain and cognitive behavioral therapy have been recently conducted to explore the influence of these interventions on pain management However, to our knowledge, the specific contribution of tailored Web-based interventions for pain management has not been described and their effect on pain has not been evaluated.


The primary aim of this systematic review was to answer the following research question: What is the effect of tailored Web-based pain management interventions for adults on pain intensity compared with usual care, face-to-face interventions, and standardized Web-based interventions? A secondary aim was to examine the effects of these interventions on physical and psychological functions.


We conducted a systematic review of articles published from January 2000 to December 2015. We used the DerSimonian-Laird random effects models with 95% confidence intervals to calculate effect estimates for all analyses. We calculated standardized mean differences from extracted means and standard deviations, as outcome variables were measured on different continuous scales. We evaluated 5 different outcomes: pain intensity (primary outcome), pain-related disability, anxiety, depression, and pain catastrophizing. We assessed effects according to 3 time intervals: short term (<1 month), medium term (1-6 months), and long term (6-12 months).


After full-text review, we excluded 31 articles, resulting in 17 eligible studies. Only 1 study concerned acute pain and was removed from the meta-analysis, resulting in 16 studies available for quantitative assessment. Compared with standard care or a waiting list, tailored Web-based intervention showed benefits immediately after, with small effect sizes (<0.40) for pain intensity (10 randomized controlled trials [RCTs], n=1310, P=.003) and pain-related disability (6 RCTs, n=953, P<.001). No other improvements were observed at follow-up in the medium and long terms. Compared with the active control group, no improvements were found for the primary outcome (pain intensity) or any of the outcomes except for a small effect size on pain catastrophizing (2 RCTs, n=333, P<.001) immediately after the intervention.


Tailored Web-based interventions did not prove to be more efficacious than standardized Web-based interventions in terms of pain intensity, pain-related disability, anxiety, and depression. An interesting finding was that some efficacy was shown on pain catastrophizing compared with active control interventions. Considering the diversity of approaches used in tailored Web-based interventions for chronic pain management, their efficacy is yet to be explored. Moreover, their contribution to acute pain management is embryonic.


International prospective register of systematic reviews (PROSPERO): CRD42015027669; (Archived by WebCite at http://www.


Web-based intervention; acute pain; chronic pain; meta-analysis; pain management; review; systematic review; tailored intervention

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