Internet and Telerehabilitation-Delivered Management of Rotator Cuff-Related Shoulder Pain (INTEL Trial): Randomized Controlled Pilot and Feasibility Trial

Peter Malliaras, Kate Cridland, Ruben Hopmans, Simon Ashton, Chris Littlewood, Richard Page, Ian Harris, Helen Skouteris, Terry Haines

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BACKGROUND: Rotator cuff-related shoulder pain (RCRSP) is a common and disabling musculoskeletal condition. Internet-based and telerehabilitation delivery of recommended care may improve access to care and improve adherence and outcomes. OBJECTIVE: The primary aim of this pilot randomized controlled trial was to assess the feasibility of a 12-week internet-delivered intervention for RCRSP comparing advice only, recommended care, and recommended care with group-based telerehabilitation. METHODS: Reporting was in accordance with the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) checklist for pilot and feasibility trials. People with a primary complaint of RCRSP for 3 months or longer were identified via a paid Facebook strategy. Screening involved an online questionnaire followed by a 20-minute telehealth assessment. Participants were randomly allocated (via a Zelen design) to receive (1) advice only, (2) recommended care (internet-delivered evidence-based exercise and education), or (3) recommended care and telerehabilitation (including a weekly group teleconference session). Progression criteria for a full-scale trial included (1) recruitment of 20% or greater of eligible participants, (2) acceptable adherence (two or more of the three prescribed weekly sessions) among 70% or greater of participants, (3) 80% or greater retention of participants, (4) absence of intervention-related serious adverse events, and (5) 80% or greater response rates to questionnaires. Secondary clinical and patient knowledge outcomes were collected (via email or text) at baseline, six weeks, and 12 weeks (for clinical and patient knowledge), and within-group change was reported descriptively. RESULTS: We enrolled 36 of 38 (95%) eligible participants and all participants were recruited within a 3-week period. Of the 36 participants, 12 participants were allocated to each of the three trial arms. The mean age of participants was between 51 and 56 years, and 83% (10/12) to 92% (11/12) were female. Retention at the 12-week endpoint was 94% (34/36) and response to email questionnaires at other time points was 83% or greater. We found acceptable adherence (defined as greater than 70% of participants performing exercise 2 or 3 times/week) in the recommended care group with telerehabilitation but not in the recommended care group without telerehabilitation. There was a total of 24 adverse events over 108 person-months of observation. All adverse events were mild or moderate (mainly muscle and shoulder symptoms), with the exception of one instance of elective surgery (unrelated to the person's shoulder condition). CONCLUSIONS: Our prespecified success criteria were met or exceeded, but there was a gender imbalance toward women. It is feasible to progress to a fully powered trial, but strategies to address the gender imbalance need to be implemented. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12620000248965);

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere24311
Number of pages18
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • feasibility
  • internet-delivered intervention
  • pain
  • pilot
  • randomized controlled trial
  • rotator cuff
  • shoulder
  • telemedicine
  • telerehabilitation
  • tendinopathy

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