COPERS, Effectiveness and cost-utility of a group self-management support intervention (COPERS) for people with chronic musculoskeletal pain: a randomised controlled trial

Background: Chronic musculoskeletal pain is a common problem. Non-pharmacological interventions may enable patients to manage their condition better but there is limited evidence for their effectiveness. We evaluated a novel, theoretically grounded self-management support intervention for chronic musculoskeletal pain. Methods: COPERS is a group intervention consisting of 24 components delivered over three days with a top up at two weeks. We conducted a multi-centre randomised controlled trial comparing COPERS with usual care and a relaxation CD. Participants were recruited from primary care or physiotherapy services in east London and the Midlands and randomised to intervention or control (allocation ratio 1.33:1). We collected follow up data at six and 12 months. Our primary outcome was pain related disability (Chronic Pain Grade, CPG, subscale) at 12 months. We also measured: costs, health utility (EQ-5D), anxiety, depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, HADS), coping, pain acceptance and social integration. Findings: We recruited 703 participants, mean age 59.9 years, 81% white, 67% female, 23% in employment; 85% with pain for at least three years, 23% on strong opioids. Symptoms of depression and anxiety were common (mean HADS scores 7.4 (SD 4.1) and 9.2 (4.6), respectively). Overall intervention participants received 85% of course content. At 12 months there was no significant difference between treatment groups in CPG disability (difference -1.0, intervention vs. control, 95% CI -4.9 to 3.0). However self-efficacy, anxiety, depression, pain acceptance and social integration were significantly better in the intervention group at six months and these differences remained significant at 12 months for depression and social integration. COPERS has a high probability (>79%) of being cost-effective compared to usual care at a threshold of £30,000 per quality adjusted life year. Conclusions: COPERS improved psychological well being and is likely to be cost effective by current NICE criteria but failed to influence our primary outcome. In the absence of more effective group self-management interventions, COPERS could be used as a substitute for less well evidenced (and more expensive) pain self-management programmes.

Journal Ref. Carnes D, Taylor SJ, Homer K, et al. Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a novel, group self-management course for adults with chronic musculoskeletal pain: study protocol for a multicentre, randomised controlled trial (COPERS). BMJ Open 2013;3.
Intervention Behavioural change (patients) - Self-management course
Number of sites 2
Countries involved 1
Sample size 703
Type of statistical analyses
Duration of trial
Primary outcome Pain related disability subscale of the Chronic Pain Grade at 12 months follow up
Show Score Ranges


(shows median if more than one score was entered)

Elig. Recr. Setting Org. Int. Flex. Del. Flex. Adherence Follow-Up Prim. Out. Prim. An.
4 3 4 2 4 5 4 4 5