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mHealth App Could Reduce Back Pain Intensity More than Traditional Physiotherapy


Half of the patients who used the app reported a 50 to 100% reduction in pain.

back pain

Patients who used a mobile health (mHealth) app to manage their lower back pain reported more alleviated symptoms than those who used traditional physiotherapy and an online education course, according to a new study published in NPJ Digital Medicine.

The intervention and control groups both reported a significant decrease in pain symptoms over time from baseline to six weeks and six weeks to 12 weeks. After the 12-week intervention, those who used the app had a lower pain intensity (2.7) than the control group (3.4).

Half of the participants in the intervention group reported a 50 to 100% reduction in pain, while 30% of the control group responded that way.

“This study can help add to the growing body of evidence that generally supports the use of multimodal treatments for chronic conditions,” said Thomas R. Tölle, M.D., Ph.D., head of pain medicine at Technical University in Munich, Germany.

Participants in the intervention group used the mHealth app for an average of 35 days. Those with a higher pain severity at baseline used the app more frequently.

The study spanned 86 participants — 42 in the intervention group and 44 in the control group. To be considered, individuals needed to be between 18 and 65 years old and complained about non-specific lower back pain with a mean pain intensity score of at least four. Participants could not have prior experience using the app.

Individuals in the intervention group used the Kaia Health app to self-manage back pain. The clinical investigator encouraged participants to use the app at least four times a week throughout the three-month study. The app included three therapy modules: back pain-specific education, physiotherapy/physical exercise and mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

The control group completed six individual face-to-face physiotherapy sessions — one per week — for at least 20 minutes. Individuals also received links to websites that offered resources about pathophysiology, diagnoses, treatment and self-management of lower back pain.

This isn’t the first time mHealth has targeted pain. While Kaia Health’s app could offer relief to individuals with back pain, another study has shown the efficacy of Pinterest to help patients cope with chronic pain.

And MoxyTech, a University of Michigan startup, launched an app called GeoPain, which users to track the frequency and severity of their chronic pain to help individuals better communicate with their care providers and improve outcomes.

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