SuperBetter receives highest marks in evaluation of apps for chronic pain

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image via JMIR mHealth and uHealth ( https://mhealth.jmir.org)

Chronic pain is one of the top 10 reasons people play SuperBetter. 

Now, a recent study evaluating 19 smartphone apps found SuperBetter to be one of three apps that fulfilled the highest number of best-practice criteria for supporting the self-management of chronic pain. These best practices include strategies such as self-efficacy building, self-tailoring of activities, goal setting & planning, problem solving and social support. Researchers screened a total of 939 apps to find the 19 that met the criteria as a chronic pain app to be included in the study.

The study was led by Dr. Hemakumar Devan, a pain researcher at the University of Otago, and published in JMIR mHealth and uHealth, one of the Journal of Medical Internet Research’s associated journals. It should be noted that the study looked at the potential of apps as a complement, not a replacement, to medical care.

Chronic pain is a serious medical and societal problem that affects approximately 1 out of 5 people. It affects more Americans than cancer, diabetes, and heart disease combined. It is also the most common reason that Americans seek medical care and is a leading contributor to costs in health care, disability programs, and lost productivity – an estimated total of $560 billion each year.

A notable point made in the study is that of the three apps that met the most number of criteria for the self-management of chronic pain, SuperBetter was one of only two that were available for free download and use. In this regard, SuperBetter was suggested as an example of the potential for using apps as scalable, wide-reaching interventions that could complement face-to-face medical care.

This is significant since people of lower income and education levels are more likely to suffer from chronic pain than those who are affluent and have higher education levels. This was a finding in a different study at the University of Buffalo, published in the journal Pain. For instance, people with the lowest levels of education are 80% more likely to experience chronic pain than people with the highest levels. 

“If you’re looking at all pain—mild, moderate and severe combined—you do see a difference across socioeconomic groups,” said Hanna Grol-Prokopczyk, study author and assistant professor of sociology at the University of Buffalo, in a press release about the study. “And other studies have shown that. But if you look at the most severe pain, which happens to be the pain most associated with disability and death, then the socioeconomically disadvantaged are much, much more likely to experience it.”  

Grol-Prokopczy also suggested that the findings of her study served as an argument for exploring more non-opioid options for people suffering from chronic pain. “There are a lot of pressures right now to reduce opioid prescription,” she said. “We don’t have particularly good treatments for chronic pain. If opioids are to some extent being taken off the table, it becomes even more important to find other ways of addressing this big public health problem.”

Dr. Devan, co-author of the aforementioned University of Otago study that evaluated apps for the self-management of chronic pain, has spoken favorably of using high-quality apps that meet his study’s criteria for the purpose of pain self-management as a complement to medical care. “People with persistent pain treated using active self-management techniques like activity pacing, relaxation and mindfulness are more likely to adopt active approaches and to show reduced long-term pain-related disability,” he said. 

Self-management methods such as activity pacing, mindfulness, and self-monitoring are just a few of the many that SuperBetter incorporates in its activities and Power Packs (i.e. themed collections of Power-ups, Quests, and Bad Guys). Given the results of Dr. Devan’s study, those suffering from chronic pain may wish to consider SuperBetter as an additional tool to support their efforts to manage their symptoms. 

If you have chronic pain, talk to your doctor before using the SuperBetter app. 

They are your best ally.

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