Clinical trial effective in improving mental health for people with spinal cord injury

icare clinical trial shows improvements in emotional wellbeing for those who have spinal cord injury.

Professor Blake Dear

Associate Professor Blake Dear

The impact of chronic pain can be broad and spread across various aspects of daily living. Activities such as showering, dressing and preparing meals can be difficult which can impact on a person’s independence and wellbeing.

It's common for people with consistent chronic pain to experience poor mental health.

“One in two people with chronic pain will experience difficulty with mental health,” said Associate Professor Blake Dear of Macquarie University’s eCentreClinic.

Whilst the level of pain can vary, chronic pain introduces unpredictability where it's hard for people to make plans and stick to them. A change or abandonment of plans can impact on their mental health.

For people with a spinal cord injury pain can be hard to manage. At times it can impact on their personal relationships and family life.

icare investing in spinal cord injury research

icare funded a research trial to explore the effect of the internet-delivered Pain Course on the emotional wellbeing of 69 people with a spinal cord injury.

The trial saw improvements in emotional wellbeing, anxiety, depression and pain. In line with similar studies, the trial showed encouraging results with 30 to 40 per cent improvements in anxiety and depression and 20 to 30 per cent improvement in disability. These results were maintained three months after participants completed treatment. The Pain Course developed by the eCentreClinic helps people with chronic pain manage the impact of pain on their day-to-day life and emotional wellbeing.

It provides participants with information to understand their pain, and support to learn skills that aim to reduce the impact of pain on daily activities whilst improving mental health. Participants work through the course at their own pace.

The trial showed that the online program is as effective as face-to-face treatment and has many additional benefits. The program is convenient and easily accessible from the comfort of one’s home. This reduces the need to travel to take part in the program, allowing participation to occur from any location.

Pain Course available at MindSpot

This access can help reduce stigma from accessing a mental health service. The Pain Course is now freely available to adults aged 18 years and over via MindSpot, Australia’s national digital mental health clinic. This course is delivered online and offers the same information and practical skills that are provided by specialist pain management clinics.

The program starts with an assessment of symptoms followed by a phone call from a therapist to discuss assessment results and treatment options. Individuals can go on to complete the Pain Course at their own pace with support through live chat, email and weekly calls from a therapist. It's currently only offered in English. Despite this some non-English speakers utilise the course with the support of a family member or carer.

For people with a spinal cord injury or medical condition, leaving the house can be time consuming and difficult. The online program removes that requirement. It also encourages people to maintain their daily activities as they don’t have to attend a physical appointment to receive treatment. Associate Professor Blake Dear encourages anyone experiencing chronic pain to learn more about the course.

“Find out more, read online, discuss with friends and family and get in touch with any questions. The platform is easy to navigate and online tech support is available. The program is offered to people experiencing all types of pain.

"The course does take time and effort but people can work through at their own pace. It is not a cure for pain but learning to manage the pain more effectively to allow people to live more comfortably.”

New programs run every two weeks.

Learn more at MindSpot