Effectiveness of smartphone apps for the self-management of low back pain in adults: a systematic review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: To explore the effectiveness of smartphone apps for the self-management of low back pain in adults. Methods: Prospectively registered systematic review of randomised controlled trials (2008–) published in English. Studies investigating smartphone apps for the self-management of low back pain (adults ≥18 years), including ≥1 NICE low back pain and sciatica clinical guideline-recommended component and functioning without health professional input were included. Outcomes were pain, function, quality of life and adherence. Results: Six studies were included (n = 2100 participants). All comparator groups incorporated some form of management (n = 3 physiotherapy, n = 2 GPs, n = 1 not specified). Three studies reported a significant decrease in pain intensity in the intervention group compared with the control. One study reported no significant difference between groups in pain self-efficacy. One study reported a significant reduction in disability (function) in the intervention group compared with the control. Two studies reported no between-group differences in quality of life. One study reported no correlation between adherence (app use) and change in pain intensity and one study reported that app use mediated the effect of teleconsultations on pain improvements. Conclusions: Inconclusive evidence exists for the use of smartphone applications for the self-management of low back pain. Further research is needed.Implications for Rehabilitation Smartphone apps have the potential to improve outcomes for people with LBP aligned with current self-management guidelines. There is a paucity of literature exploring smartphone apps for LBP self-management and current evidence is inconclusive for smartphone app use without supported care. Commercially available smartphone apps are not well regulated for content or alignment with evidence-based guidelines and recommendations. Further evaluation of commercially available apps is required to guide and instil confidence in consumers and health professionals that consumer-accessible apps may lead to improved outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Early online date2 Dec 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Dec 2021

Keywords

  • adults
  • low back pain
  • self-management
  • Smartphone apps
  • systematic review

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