Chronic pain has a new face–both in our organization and the wider community of pain patients and specialists. In our Faces of Pain project, we’re beginning to put a day-to-day face to the varied lives of many chronic pain patients all over the world. In the same way, pain researchers are beginning to understand that there are many ways of monitoring pain and understanding it. Want to learn more?

From the American Pain Society: New apps help doctors better manage pain patients

When you’re always connected as it is, turning to a smartphone to track daily pain symptoms might just have some merit. One researcher, Dr. Robert Jamison from Harvard Medical School, is studying how a smartphone app could change the way doctors are currently monitoring pain. Instead of using a paper pain diary, Jamison is studying 60 chronic pain patients and their use of a pain management smartphone app.

In the American Pain Society article, Jamison is quoted as saying:

Online networks, for example, can promote communication, distraction, information sharing, self expression, and social support. We also believe online networks decrease feelings of withdrawn behavior and instill a greater willingness to return for treatment.

With the app, doctors would be monitoring pain on a 1 to 10 sliding scale and contacting patients when pain ratings jumped to 9 or 10, or otherwise significantly increased. In addition to daily pain levels, the app would also monitor daily activity, treatment compliance, mood, and sleep. 

Jamison also notes that: 

The pain management smartphone app can deliver non-pharmacological, cognitive behavioral treatment as well as prompt patients to stay active, comply with therapy, and develop pain coping skills.

Jamison’s smartphone app provides promise for allowing doctors to stay better connected to patients in pain. Other pain management smartphone apps have already been developed and are widely used to track pain symptoms. 

From the New York Times: Computers allow doctors to read pain in a patient’s face

While it seems like something from a science fiction novel, researchers from the University of California, San Diego are developing computer software for monitoring pain. With an 85% accuracy, their computers can detect pain on person’s face. This may help pain specialists better treat young children with pain, as well as patients with communication impairments.

A MedCityNews article on the topic notes that:

It’s not that people lack empathy, but they look for the wrong cues, according to Marian S. Bartlett, a professor with the Institute for Neural Computation at San Diego who was the lead author of the study.

The computers were able to better track the speed of facial changes, as well as the smoothness and duration of muscles contractions for a better detection of real pain. The New York Times article also notes that similar software is being developed for monitoring depression symptoms among patients.

With these two novel ways of monitoring pain, pain specialists may soon be able to better treat and manage chronic pain symptoms.

Do you currently use any pain management smartphone apps? Have you visited our new Faces of Pain page to connect with others living with chronic pain?

Image by amy elyse via Flickr

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