Group and individual telehealth for chronic musculoskeletal pain: a scoping review

L M Wallace, D Falla, A Rushton, N R Heneghan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Musculoskeletal (MSK) pain presents a global challenge. Individual and group pain management programmes (PMPs) are recommended approaches for patients with chronic MSK disorders. With advances in remote healthcare capability, telehealth, and the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of telehealth PMPs has become even more evident. Nevertheless, it is not known how patients perceive PMPs for their MSK complaint when delivered via telehealth.

OBJECTIVE: To synthesise the evidence of patients' experiences of group and individual telehealth PMPs for chronic MSK pain.

DESIGN: A scoping review informed by the PRISMA extension for scoping reviews.

DATA SOURCES: Based on a planned search strategy, modified following initial searches, an electronic search was conducted of key databases: Cochrane Library, Medline, CINAHL, EMBASE, AMED, SportDiscus and APA PsychInfo from 2010 until 11 May 2021.

STUDY SELECTION: Any qualitative or mixed methods study reporting patient experiences of telehealth PMPs for patients with MSK disorders.

DATA EXTRACTION AND DATA SYNTHESIS: Data were extracted and synthesised using thematic analysis.

RESULTS: From 446 identified studies, 10 were included. Just two studies investigated group telehealth PMPs for patients with MSK disorders, with eight delivered individually. Four main themes emerged: (1) Usability of the technology, (2) Tailored care, (3) Therapeutic alliance and (4) Managing behaviour. The findings highlight patient acceptability of telehealth to support self-management for chronic MSK disorders, with appropriate clinical and technical support. Group telehealth has the potential to empower patients with peer support. Remote delivery of PMPs also impacts on how patients and providers interact, communicate and develop a therapeutic relationship.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Barriers and enablers to engagement in telehealth PMPs for patients with chronic MSK disorders have been identified. Peer support and group cohesiveness can be achieved remotely to enhance the patient experience. There is a critical need for further research in this area.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMusculoskeletal care
Early online date19 Oct 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • group exercise
  • musculoskeletal disorders
  • pain management
  • patient experiences
  • telehealth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Chiropractics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)


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