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App helps reduce disability caused by low back pain, study finds

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Aug. 2 (UPI) — A mobile app designed to provide low back pain sufferers with weekly self-management tips to address their symptoms effectively reduces disability caused by the condition, according to a study published Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine.

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More than half of those who used the app saw a clinically significant improvement of scores on a self-assessment pain questionnaire, the data showed.

Just under 40% of low back pain patients who did not use the app, receiving only treatment and self-care advice from their doctors, had similar results, the researchers said.

The app, called SelfBACK, was developed by researchers at the University of Southern Denmark.

“The SelfBACK app reduces low back pain-related disability by offering individually tailored self-management advice as a supplement to usual care,” study co-author Louise Fleng Sandal told UPI in an email.

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“The app provides information on low back pain and pain management that may be helpful,” said Fleng Sandal, a professor of sports science and clinical biomechanics at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense.

Low back pain is the leading cause of disability globally and it accounts for an estimated 264 million lost workdays annually in the United States alone, the United States Bone and Joint Initiative, an alliance of pain sufferers and clinicians, estimates.

Nationally, it is the third most common reason that people visit their primary care physician, after skin problems and arthritis and joint pain, according to recent research.

For this study, Fleng Sandal and her colleagues assessed the potential benefits of the SelfBACK app in 461 Danish adults with low back pain ranging in age from early 30s to early 60s.

About half of the study participants had the app, which provided weekly recommendations for physical activity, strength and flexibility exercises, as well as daily self-care tips, downloaded on their mobile devices, while the rest received similar consultation during routine appointments with their clinicians, the researchers said.

Among those who used the app, 52% saw an improvement of 4 points or more on their Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire self-assessments at six weeks, three months, six months and nine months.

The 24-point Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire is a commonly used assessment of function and quality of life in patients with low back pain, with a score of 0 representing no disability and 24 suggesting significant impairment.

Of those who did not use the app, 39% had similar results at the same time periods, the data showed.

“The key component of the app is that is uses artificial intelligence to tailor the self-management advice to the individual,” Fleng Sandal said.

“This provides a personalized plan consisting of evidence-based self-management activities,” she said.

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