BACKGROUND: We previously demonstrated that automated, Web-based pain coping skills training (PCST) can reduce osteoarthritis pain. The present secondary analyses examined whether this program also changed coping strategies participants identified for use in hypothetical pain-related situations.
METHOD: People with hip/knee osteoarthritis (n = 107) were randomized to Web-based PCST or standard care control. At baseline and post-intervention, they reported their pain severity and impairment, then completed a task in which they described how they would cope with pain in four hypothetical pain-related situations, also reporting their perceived risk for pain and self-efficacy for managing it. We coded the generated coping strategies into counts of adaptive behavioral, maladaptive behavioral, adaptive cognitive, and discrete adaptive coping strategies (coping repertoire).
RESULTS: Compared to the control arm, Web-based PCST decreased the number of maladaptive behavioral strategies generated (p = 0.002) while increasing the number of adaptive behavioral strategies generated (p = 0.006), likelihood of generating at least one adaptive cognitive strategy (p = 0.01), and the size of participants' coping repertoire (p = 0.009). Several of these changes were associated with changes in pain outcomes (ps = 0.01 to 0.65). Web-based PCST also reduced perceived risk for pain in the situations (p = 0.03) and increased self-efficacy for avoiding pain in similar situations (p < 0.001).
CONCLUSION: Salutary changes found in this study appear to reflect intervention-concordant learning.