Reduction of bodily pain in response to an online positive activities intervention

Inducing temporary positive states lowers pain levels and increases pain tolerance in laboratory studies. The study tested whether a person’s completing positive activities in their daily life yields long-term reductions in self-reported bodily pain in a randomized controlled trial of an online positive activities intervention. Participants recruited via the Web were assigned at random to complete 0, 2, 4, or 6 positive activities administered online over a 6-week period. Follow-up assessments were collected at the end of 6 weeks and at 1, 3, and 6 months after intervention. Linear mixed effects models were used to examine whether the intervention reduced pain over time among those who had a score <67 on the bodily pain subscale of the Short Form-36 at baseline (N=417; pain scores range from 0 to 100; higher scores indicate less pain). Mean pain scores improved from baseline to 6 months in the 2-activity (55.7 to 67.4), 4-activity (54.2 to 71.0), and 6-activity (50.9 to 67.9) groups. Improvements were significantly greater (P<.05) in the 4-activity and 6-activity groups than in the 0-activity control group (54.1 to 62.2) in unadjusted and adjusted models. This study indicates that positive activities administered online can reduce bodily pain in adults with at least mild to moderate baseline pain.

This study showed that teaching people simple positive activities can reduce reported levels of bodily pain; moreover, these activities can be administered over the internet, a potential avenue for broadly disseminating health interventions at comparatively low costs and with high sustainability.