These days it seems there’s an app for everything—even lower back pain (LBP). The app that was the focus of a recent study discussed in the journal Nature is meant to serve as an instantly accessible resource for people with back pain. LBP is the most common type of spine-related discomfort and the leading cause of disability worldwide. Here’s a closer look at the results from that study—which involves a care program using an Internet-based app—and what can be learned from them.
The Basic Setup for the Study
For the 12-week study, people with lower back pain were divided into two groups. Each subject in the first group was given a tablet computer with the app installed. The application provided remote access to the following resources
- Sensor-guided exercise therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Team discussions
- Spine-related education articles
- Symptom tracking
- Personalized coaching
The patients in the control group were only given three educational articles. Participants in both groups continued with regular care for their lower back pain (e.g., doctors’ visits, image testing, medication, and other treatments previously recommended).
Individuals who used the app during the three-month study reported fewer instances of lower back pain. They also had less interest in surgery than before they started the program. Participants in the digital program logged, on average, about 45 workouts. Many of them also read available articles, participated in CBT sessions, and posted on the app’s feed. These are the main takeaways from the study:
- Pain outcomes for participants improved from 52 percent to 64 percent
- Program participants averaged a 52 percent decrease in their interest in surgery for their LBP
- Control patients, on average, had a 53 percent increase in their interest in LBP surgery
What It Means for People with Lower Back Pain
The study shows the importance of having access to an assortment of complementary resources when managing lower back pain, which is especially important because physicians and physical therapists often have multiple patients they see on a regular basis, so it’s always easy to provide individualized advice without the need to schedule an appointment.
It should be noted that this study was small and similar studies haven’t been as conclusive as this one, which just means additional research is needed before app-based programs become a standard part of treatment and pain management plans. However, if you have ongoing issues with LBP, use the results from this study as an incentive to take the following steps:
- Discuss your symptoms with your doctor or Santa Monica spine surgeon on a regular basis
- Do your own research and read articles about your LBP symptoms to get a better understanding of why you may be experiencing them
- Seek support in person or online from other individuals with LBP
- Talk to your doctor about incorporating cognitive behavioral therapy or other supplemental or alternative therapies into your treatment plan
Before turning to any app-based program for your lower back pain symptoms, get an accurate diagnosis to find out what’s causing your discomfort. It should also be noted that such programs are meant to supplement any treatments recommended by your doctor or a spine specialist, not to take their place. However, app programs such as these can make it easy to access additional resources from one convenient point of reference.
If you’re experiencing lower back pain that’s severe or persistent, don’t wait to seek the advice of an experienced spinal health specialist. The spine specialists at The Spine Institute have unparalleled expertise in diagnosing and treating back pain. Our physicians lead the industry in cutting-edge treatment methods such as spinal fusion alternatives. Santa Monica residents are encouraged to call us today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.