Depicting individual responses to physical therapist led chronic pain self-management support with pain science education and exercise in primary health care: multiple case studies
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BACKGROUND: Previous evidence suggests self-management programs for people with chronic pain improve knowledge and self-efficacy, but result in small to negligible changes in function. The purpose of this multiple case studies design was to describe the unique responses of six participants to a new self-management program aimed at improving function, to detail each component of the program, and to explore potential explanations for the varied trajectories of each of the participants. CASE PRESENTATION: Six participants who had been experiencing chronic pain for at least 5 years were included. All participants were enrolled 6 weeks of ChrOnic pain self-ManageMent support with pain science EducatioN and exercise (COMMENCE). Participants completed an assessment at baseline, 7 weeks (1-week follow-up), and 18 weeks (12-week follow-up). Each participant had a unique initial presentation and goals. Assessments included: function as measured by the Short Musculoskeletal Function Assessment - Dysfunction Index, how much participants are bothered by functional difficulties, pain intensity, fatigue, pain interference, cognitive and psychological factors associated with pain and disability, pain neurophysiology, self-efficacy, satisfaction, and perceived change. The self-management program was 6-weeks in length, consisting of one individual visit and one group visit per week. The program incorporated three novel elements not commonly included in self-management programs: pain neurophysiology education, individualized exercises determined by the participants' goals, and additional cognitive behavioural approaches. Participants were all satisfied with self-management support received. Change in function was variable ranging from 59% improvement to 17% decline. Two potential explanations for variances in response, attendance and social context, are discussed. Several challenges were identified by participants as barriers to attendance. CONCLUSIONS: A primary care self-management intervention including pain education and individualized exercise has potential to improve function for some people with chronic pain, although strategies to improve adherence and reduce barriers to participation may be needed to optimize the impact.