If you’re dealing with back pain, you might benefit from online resources that offer additional treatment options and increased engagement. A study published in the journal Nature found that participants who completed a 12-week internet-app-based care program reported less lower back pain and interest in surgery than before.1
App-based program improves lower back pain
All study participants had lower back pain and were divided into two groups:
- Participants in the first group were given tablet computers with an app that provides remote access to sensor-guided exercise therapy, education articles, cognitive behavioral therapy, team discussions, symptom tracking, and personalized coaching.
- Participants in the control group received only three education articles.
Throughout the study, all participants maintained access to treatment as usual, such as doctor visits, medication, and diagnostic imaging.
Participants who completed the digital program on average logged 44.8 workouts, read 9.2 online education articles, completed 1.7 cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, and posted on the app’s feed 6.3 times. Here’s what the study revealed:
- People who completed the program improved their pain outcomes by an average of 52% to 64%.
- Participants reported a 52% decrease in average interest in surgery to treat their lower back pain, while the control group showed a 53% increase in average interest in surgery.
At the end of 12 weeks, the people who consistently engaged with multiple non-invasive treatments through the app reported significantly less pain and interest in surgery than the people in the control group.
Education, coaching, and community may help improve lower back pain
This study suggests that educational resources, group support, 1-on-1 coaching, and self-tracking—administered remotely through an app—may be helpful additions to standard lower back pain treatment protocol. However, this study was small and other studies have been inconclusive, so further research on the digital component of care is needed.
Actively engaging in your recovery, whether it’s through an app or not, can lead to health benefits. In addition to discussing your pain with a doctor, you may want to consider:
- Reading peer-reviewed articles on back symptoms or treatments
- Joining a forum and connecting with other people who have similar back pain experiences
- Trying cognitive behavioral therapy with a therapist or on the internet
- Performing exercises under the guidance of a health care provider
If you have found limited or no success with non-invasive treatments for lower back pain, your doctor may discuss with you such options as injections, prolotherapy, radiofrequency ablation, spinal cord stimulators, or surgery.
- Shebib R, Bailey JF, Perez DA, Mecklenburg G, Hunter S. Randomized controlled trial of a 12-week digital care program in improving low back pain. npj Digital Medicine. 2019;2(1). doi:10.1038/s41746-018-0076-7.