Chronic pain is a common complaint, prompting individuals to seek professional help and affecting more than 100 million Americans. It is a complex condition mostly because of psychological factors that play a crucial role in the experience of pain.
Chronic pain can seriously affect the individual's quality of life, so it's very important to ensure a comprehensive treatment plan for every individual. Treatment usually includes medications, cognitive therapy, physical therapy, and so on.
Many people suffering from chronic pain also use mobile apps as a part of their treatment, to better manage their pain on a daily basis.
Despite increasing number of mobile apps for chronic pain management, a lot of them seem to pay little attention to evidence-based practices and are often designed by engineers rather than healthcare professionals.
The app we review today is not that kind of app. WebMD Pain Coach app is made by healthcare professionals to help people who suffer from chronic pain. It is a medication-free app that provides daily tips, helps users set wellness goals and share their progress with their doctor.
After downloading the app, you'll be asked to sign in if you have an account, or to register one, if you don’t have it. Registering an account is simple and requires your email address, a password, a screen name and birth date.
Optionally, you can watch the Pain Coach video that outlines how the app can help those suffering from chronic pain to get better and improve their lives.
After registering an account/signing in, Pain Coach app would ask you to choose from seven pain conditions you suffered from, including a migraine, fibromyalgia, back pain, neck pain, and so on. You can check only one condition, or several if you suffer from more than one. You can also choose Other diagnosed chronic pain if your condition is not listed.
Next step would be entering the symptoms that are listed alphabetically, including abdominal pain, aching, dizziness, headache, light and noise sensitivity, nausea and throbbing pain. After this step, you'd be asked to choose what triggers your pain or makes it worse, from the list that includes alcohol, anxiety, bright light, cold weather, noise, stress, and so on.
In the final step, the app would ask if you use any treatments, such as medications and supplements, or other treatments such as acupuncture, breathing exercises, chiropractic treatment, CBT, meditation, rest, yoga, and so on. These alternative treatments can be added by checking them in the list.
If you want to add medications, tap on plus sign next to Add Medication. Unfortunately, although Pain Coach includes a comprehensive database of different drugs and supplements, they're not featured in a list. Users need to use search to find the medications they want to add.
While I understand that Pain Coach tends to be a drug-free app, it would be a lot easier if users can simply pick from the list, instead of using the search feature that can be frustrating, for example, if users mistype the complex names, etc.
After adding medication/supplements, you can add dosage (usually from prescription or package) and units, i.e. mg, mcg, mL, and so on.
Personally, I found that adding medication information is not necessary because it doesn't have any practical use. You cannot track usage, doses, or refills. Also, Pain Coach app doesn't include medication reminders, which would be super useful, knowing that a lot of people suffering from chronic pain actually use medications.
Once, you've added all necessary information regarding your pain, symptoms, triggers, and treatments, the app would open to a Journal page. This page features a summary of daily activities and your overall wellbeing that can be updated throughout the day.
Here, you can set how you feel, track your pain by selecting a pain level on a scale of 0 to 10, your symptoms, triggers, and treatments. Journal page also allows you to set and view your goals, or check tips that app serves you based on your pain levels, symptoms and triggers.
Goals section enables users to explore and set goals from various categories, including food, rest, exercise, mood and treatments goals. Each category has various goals listed, with those recommended by the app on top. Each goal is explained concisely and has a duration that can be adjusted to suit users' needs. Also, goals contain tips related to a particular category (mood, food, rest, etc.) that cover some useful topics on how to manage pain. All tips link to related articles, videos, and slideshows, and can be viewed separately in Tips section of the app.
These related materials are listed in Library section of the app, grouped in categories that cover main conditions such as fibromyalgia or migraines, or popular topics explaining pain management techniques, treatment, and care, how to live better with pain, or understand chronic pain.
Each of these categories opens a list of subcategories that contain educational articles, slideshows, and videos. Content is evidence-based and well-referenced linking to the sources that vary depending on the topic. There are also quizzes that allow users to test their knowledge.
As being said, Tips section contains tips grouped in the same categories as in Goals section. Each category list tips, or tip categories that each show number of tips it contains.
The users who've skipped tutorial on how to use the app would probably have trouble finding how to view a weekly or monthly report. WebMD Pain Coach has a quite intuitive way to show it. When you're viewing Journal page, simply rotate your phone horizontally and the graph would be displayed, showing your progress that can be extracted as a weekly or monthly PDF report and shared with your doctor.
The last section of the app is Settings, where users could modify their Conditions, Symptoms, Triggers, Treatments, and Notifications. Pain Coach app only sends Daily Journal reminder, allowing users to set the time to receive it, or opt-out from receiving notifications.
I can only conclude that WebMD Pain Coach is a great app for those suffering from chronic pain, who can use it to track their pain or to access a plenty of useful information, resources and tips. If it had included medication reminders, this app would be the complete solution for chronic pain management.
Benefit: All people suffering from chronic pain may find this app useful