Back pain, whether it’s sudden or chronic, can be tough to navigate. In fact, it’s said that back pain is the most common cause of work disability in the world. According to two Norwegian doctors, many people can be afraid to exercise when they have lower back pain, which only makes the situation worse. They say the key is to, instead, exercise in a way that strengthens and rehabilitates the back — and they’ve developed an app to help you do it.
The selfBACK App for Back Pain
The new app, called selfBACK, has been created by Dr. Paul Jarle Mork, a professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and Kerstin Bach, an associate professor at NTNU. “Hundreds of health apps are already available for mobile phones. But the selfBACK app stands out by being based on sound scientific evidence,” Mork said. The new app will help users deal with their back pain with a personalized action plan.
According to Dr. Bach, you start by giving the app some insight into what kind of back problems you’ve been experiencing. “So before you start to use the app, you have to answer some questions, including about your lifestyle and specific back problems. The app compares your answers to those of other app users, and to the results they’ve achieved by using the app. This is how the app can adapt the advice for you,” she said.
The app then explains what back pain is, how it develops, and how you can work to alleviate it. Once you’ve got a basic understanding, it tailors an action plan for you, including different physical activity recommendations and exercises, based on the answers to your questions. The app uses artificial intelligence (AI) to gage your symptom state and symptom progression, and it creates your plan according to a goal that you set yourself. You get a new plan weekly, and are able to track your progress along the way.
The researchers tested their app in a randomized control trial. For the study, they recruited 461 people with back pain from Norway and Denmark. “About half of the study participants received standard treatment from their health providers. The other half received standard treatment as well, but also used selfBACK,” Mork said.
The subjects were asked to report on their progress after three, six, and nine months of using the app. After month three, 52 percent of the participants who used the selfBACK app said that they say major improvements in back pain, while only 39 percent of the participants in the other group felt that their condition improved. After six and nine months, the same differences were found. Pretty impressive!
The selfBack App is (unfortunately) only available for Apple iOS users, but hopefully we’ll see it offered on other operating systems soon. One thing that’s super exciting is that the app is totally free for users, and you can even set up an account at no charge that helps you monitor your progress over time.
Thanks to these two doctors, you’ve got a tool in your pocket that can help you actually manage your back pain and keep issues from flaring up. As always, check in with your doctor before starting any new exercise or pain management program. Here’s to a pain-free back!