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Papers of the Week

Papers: 10 Sep 2022 - 16 Sep 2022


2022 Sep 09

J Pain

Facing Pain Together: A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effects of Facebook Support Groups on Adults with Chronic Pain.


Pester BD, Tankha H, Caño A, Tong S, Grekin E, Bruinsma J, Gootee J, Lumley MA
J Pain. 2022 Sep 09.
PMID: 36096353.


Despite the popularity and affordances of social media groups for people with chronic conditions, there have been few controlled tests of the effects of these groups. This randomized controlled superiority trial examined the effects of Facebook groups on pain-related outcomes and tested whether a professional-led group leads to greater effects than a support group alone. We randomly assigned 119 adults with chronic pain to one of two Facebook group conditions: a standard condition (n = 60) in which participants were instructed to offer mutual support, or a professional-led condition (n = 59) in which the investigators disseminated empirically-supported, socially-oriented psychological interventions. Four groups were run (2 standard, 2 professional-led), each lasting 4 weeks and containing approximately 30 participants. Measures were administered at baseline, post-intervention, and 1-month follow-up. Across conditions, participants improved significantly in primary outcomes (pain severity and interference; medium-large effects) and a secondary outcome (depressive symptoms; small-medium effect), and they retained their outcomes 1 month after the groups ended. The two conditions did not differ on improvements. Overall, this study supports the use of social media groups as an additional tool to improve chronic pain-related outcomes. Our findings suggest that professional intervention may not have added value in these groups and that peer support alone may be driving improvements. Alternatively, the psychosocial intervention components used in the current study might have been ineffective, or more therapist direction may be warranted. Future research should examine when and how such guidance could enhance outcomes.