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Effectiveness of app-delivered, tailored self-management support for adults with lower back pain-related disability: a selfBACK randomized clinical trial.

Sandal, Louise Fleng; Bach, Kerstin; �ver�s, Cecilie K.; Wiratunga, Nirmalie; Cooper, Kay


Louise Fleng Sandal

Kerstin Bach

Cecilie K. �ver�s


Importance: Lower back pain (LBP) is a prevalent and challenging condition in primary care. The effectiveness of an individually tailored self-management support tool delivered via a smartphone app has not been rigorously tested. Objective: To investigate the effectiveness of selfBACK, an evidence-based, individually tailored self-management support system delivered through an app as an adjunct to usual care for adults with LBP-related disability. Design, Setting, and Participants: This randomized clinical trial with an intention-to-treat data analysis enrolled eligible individuals who sought care for LBP in a primary care or an outpatient spine clinic in Denmark and Norway from March 8 to December 14, 2019. Participants were 18 years or older, had nonspecific LBP, scored 6 points or higher on the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ), and had a smartphone and access to email. Interventions: The selfBACK app provided weekly recommendations for physical activity, strength and flexibility exercises, and daily educational messages. Self-management recommendations were tailored to participant characteristics and symptoms. Usual care included advice or treatment offered to participants by their clinician. Main Outcomes and Measures: Primary outcome was the mean difference in RMDQ scores between the intervention group and control group at 3 months. Secondary outcomes included average and worst LBP intensity levels in the preceding week as measured on the numerical rating scale, ability to cope as assessed with the Pain Self-Efficacy Questionnaire, fear-avoidance belief as assessed by the Fear-Avoidance Beliefs Questionnaire, cognitive and emotional representations of illness as assessed by the Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire, health-related quality of life as assessed by the EuroQol-5 Dimension questionnaire, physical activity level as assessed by the Saltin-Grimby Physical Activity Level Scale, and overall improvement as assessed by the Global Perceived Effect scale. Outcomes were measured at baseline, 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and 9 months. Results: A total of 461 participants were included in the analysis; the population had a mean [SD] age of 47.5 [14.7] years and included 255 women (55%). Of these participants, 232 were randomized to the intervention group and 229 to the control group. By the 3-month follow-up, 399 participants (87%) had completed the trial. The adjusted mean difference in RMDQ score between the 2 groups at 3 months was 0.79 (95% CI, 0.06-1.51; P=.03), favoring the selfBACK intervention. The percentage of participants who reported a score improvement of at least 4 points on the RMDQ was 52% in the intervention group vs 39% in the control group (adjusted odds ratio, 1.76; 95% CI, 1.15-2.70; P=.01). Conclusions and Relevance: Among adults who sought care for LBP in a primary care or an outpatient spine clinic, those who used the selfBACK system as an adjunct to usual care had reduced pain-related disability at 3 months. The improvement in pain-related disability was small and of uncertain clinical significance. Process evaluation may provide insights into refining the selfBACK app to increase its effectiveness. Trial Registration: Identifier: NCT03798288.


SANDAL, L.F., BACH, K., ØVERÅS, C.K., WIRATUNGA, N., COOPER, K, et al. 2021. Effectiveness of app-delivered, tailored self-management support for adults with lower back pain-related disability: a selfBACK randomized clinical trial. JAMA internal medicine [online], 181(10), pages 1288-1296. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 11, 2021
Online Publication Date Aug 2, 2021
Publication Date Oct 31, 2021
Deposit Date Aug 5, 2021
Publicly Available Date Aug 5, 2021
Journal JAMA internal medicine
Print ISSN 2168-6106
Electronic ISSN 2168-6114
Publisher American Medical Association (AMA)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 181
Issue 10
Pages 1288-1296
Keywords SelfBACK; Evidence-based; Self-management support system; Lower back pain (LBP); Smartphone app
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