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Virtual Back Pain Management Programme

Patient information A-Z

The aim of the programme

The virtual back pain management programme is for those with persistent spinal pain, whether that is in the neck or in the lower back. We also accept those with more widespread pain conditions such as fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, providing pain in the neck or back is your biggest concern. You can be referred by any healthcare professional.

The programme aims to

  • reduce the disability and distress caused by your chronic pain
  • increase participation in daily activities and exercise
  • improve your quality of life
  • help you feel more in control of your pain

There is no 'hands on' physical or passive treatment during the programme. The programme does not aim to ‘cure the pain’.

The programme

The programme is run for three weeks, Monday to Thursday (09:30 to 15:30). There will be mid-morning and lunch breaks. You will have the opportunity to meet up for a preparation meeting, the week before, to practise using the online platform (Zoom). Staff will be available to help you problem solve any difficulties connecting.

Throughout the programme you will work in a group, and will be encouraged to participate as fully as possible in order to get the most out of the course. You may experience increased pain during the programme due to a change in your daily routine. However the team will be able to guide you through this.

You will need access to a laptop / computer / tablet or phone with camera and speaker / headset. Most people find a computer / laptop / tablet works better than a phone because the larger screen helps them to see better.

You will need somewhere quiet to sit and listen, and to join in the conversation in a private area. We ask that all patients ensure they are not disturbed and no one is listening in to the group’s conversations, for confidentiality reasons.

The programme involves a big commitment from you. We also suggest you avoid making significant plans for the Fridays or weekends during the programme, so you can make the most of it


There are a number of criteria that may mean it is inappropriate for you to commence the virtual back pain management programme at this time. These include:

  • not being able to commit to the full schedule as mentioned earlier
  • not having the technology required
  • the fact that you are awaiting further medical investigations or tests in relation to your pain
  • the fact that you are awaiting further invasive medical procedures, either injections or surgery, in relation to your pain
  • the fact that your greatest pain concerns are outside the back or neck areas

The pre-assessment appointment

To be considered for the programme, you will have a pre-assessment appointment with the team (physiotherapist, occupational therapist and clinical psychologist) to assess whether the programme is suitable for you and if you are ready for the programme.

Therefore, you may not be accepted onto the programme.. If this happens, we will discuss an alternative plan with you.

If you cannot attend your pre-assessment appointment for any reason, please contact the pain clinic on 01223 596476 to cancel / reschedule the appointment.

Please note that if you do not attend your appointment without informing the pain clinic then you will automatically be discharged back to the referrer and will need to be re-referred, which can result in a significant wait.

Education and discussion sessions

These occur every morning and are led by various team members (physiotherapist, occupational therapist, clinical psychologist). The sessions cover topics including:

  • moving more easily with back pain
  • flare-up planning
  • the multiple aspects of pain
  • pacing and lifestyle management
  • goal setting
  • problem-solving daily activities
  • sleep strategies
  • how our thoughts, feelings, emotions and pain can influence each other and the impact they can all have on our day-to-day life
  • helping others better understand what it is like living with persistent pain and maintaining change for the future

There will also be a talk by a dietician and a pain clinic nurse. Every morning usually ends with a relaxation session prior to lunch.

Virtual exercise sessions

These occur most afternoons. This time is for you to experiment with movement and discover elements of exercise that you find most enjoyable and most successful for you.

You can go at your own pace and there is no pressure to do anything you don’t feel confident about. There will be a mix of different types of exercise involved (for example;. tai chi, yoga, pilates). Specific information about the exercise will be provided either prior to or at the beginning of the programme.

After the programme

After you have finished the programme, there are group reviews with the therapy staff at one month, six month and one year intervals.

The aims of these appointments will be to review your progress towards your goals and resolve any difficulties you may have with applying pain management tools. In general, at the end of the programme patients report less fear of movement, increased physical ability, reduced distress and greater achievement of personal goals, though the extent of these changes varies for each individual.

After the last review you would then be discharged from the pain service.

If you have any further queries you can contact the staff concerned in the physiotherapy department on 01223 216633 or the programme administrator on 01223 596476.

If, for any reason, you believe that the programme is not suitable for you, please liaise with your referrer and cancel your pre-assessment appointment if already booked.

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

Other formats

Help accessing this information in other formats is available. To find out more about the services we provide, please visit our patient information help page (see link below) or telephone 01223 256998.

Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151