EHealth to empower patients with musculoskeletal pain in rural Australia (EMPoweR) a randomised clinical trial: study protocol. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 22, 11 (2021).

EHealth to empower patients with musculoskeletal pain in rural Australia (EMPoweR) a randomised clinical trial: study protocol

Mesa-Castrillon, C.I., Simic, M., Ferreira, M.L. et al.


Low back pain (LBP) and knee osteoarthritis (OA) are major contributors to disability worldwide. These conditions result in a significant burden at both individual and societal levels. Engagement in regular physical activity and exercise programs are known to improve physical function in both chronic LBP and knee OA populations. For people residing in rural areas, musculoskeletal conditions are often more frequent and disabling compared to urban populations, which could be the result of reduced access to appropriate health services and resources in rural settings. EHealth is an innovative solution to help provide equitable access to treatment for people with musculoskeletal pain living in rural settings.


We will conduct a randomised clinical trial investigating the effects of an eHealth intervention compared to usual care, for people with chronic non-specific LBP or knee OA in rural Australia. We will recruit 156 participants with non-specific chronic LBP or knee OA. Following the completion of baseline questionnaires, participants will be randomly allocated to either the eHealth intervention group, involving a tailored physical activity and progressive resistance exercise program remotely delivered by a physiotherapist (n = 78), or usual care (n = 78) involving referral to a range of care practices in the community. Outcomes will be measured at baseline, 3 and 6 months post-randomisation. The primary outcome will be physical function assessed by the Patient-Specific Functional Scale (PSFS). Secondary outcomes include pain intensity, physical activity levels, activity limitations, quality of life, pain coping. We will also collect process evaluation data such as recruitment rate, attendance and adherence, follow-up rate, participants’ opinions and any barriers encountered throughout the trial.


The findings from this trial will establish the effectiveness of eHealth-delivered interventions that are known to be beneficial for people with LBP and knee OA when delivered in person. As a result, this trial will help to inform health care policy and clinical practice in Australia and beyond for those living in non-urban areas.

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