Patients Attitudes Towards Technology: Pain Management
Research has shown that patients have a general positive attitude towards use of technology in pain management. Many are satisfied with the various technologies being used to manage pain. In comprehensive coverage of pieces of information and data regard patients’ attitude towards technology in pain management is provided below.
- According to a recent national survey of public attitudes towards balanced pain management, a significant number of patients felt that the available health plans needed to cover technology-based treatments and devices for managing short and long-term pain. The results mirror findings from other studies that show patients having a more positive attitude towards the use of technology in healthcare, including in pain management in emergency departments and other areas of the healthcare system.
- Most patients are satisfied with the use of technology in pain management and would recommend it to others. Findings from another study also show that patients are willing and ready to accept alternative pain management approaches, including acupuncture and technology-based approaches.
- In another study focusing on patients using virtual reality for pain management, the findings showed that most patients were satisfied with the audiovisual experience and would recommend the use of VR technology for pain management to their families and friends.
- Many patients tend to believe that using technology in managing pain is effective. According to a randomized controlled trial to investigate the effects of using home-based video game exercises on self-efficacy and care-seeking among a section of older people with chronic low back pain, patients using the video game exercises technology had significantly higher pain self-efficacy. The study also found that majority of the participants (70.8%) adhered to the recommended exercise time.
- In a 2018 clinical study of patients who used Quell by NeuroMetrix, a pain management technology, 80% of the patients reported improvements in terms of their chronic pain. These findings also provide an explanation for the prior finding that shows many patients supporting the use of technology in pain management. If the patients did not trust the use of technology in managing pain, then their attitude towards it would be negative.
- Using technology in managing pain affects patients’ use of pain medication. A recent study of 713 patients using Quell technology for pain management found that at least 66% of the patients reported a reduction in their use of pain medication because of using Quell technology.
- Findings from other studies have also shown that using technology in pain management helps in disrupting the use of opioid by patients. This is important because the use of opioid in pain management has resulted in addiction and deaths among patients.
- Results from a study based on Veterans Affairs health records showed that non-drug therapies for managing chronic pain among military services members helped in reducing the risk of long-term negative outcomes such as alcohol and drug abuse as well as self-induced injuries. Moreover, using non-pharmacological technological interventions to manage pain helps in overcoming the problem of medication adherence, which affects many patients.
- Despite the strong support for using non-drug based technologies in managing pain, a section of patients report negative impacts associated with using them. For example, data from the FDA shows that patients often report being burned, shocked, and suffering spinal-cord nerve damage from using spinal-cord stimulators to manage their chronic pain.
- Such findings point to the possible lack of trust among patients in the non-drug technologies used in managing pain. The injury cases resulting from these innovations may actually trigger a negative attitude towards the use of a particular technology among many patients.
Changes in Chronic Pain Management: Technology
Some pieces of information, data, and/or statistics surrounding any changes in chronic pain management technology over the past 18 months include the fact that Biotricity has recently launched a pain management application; FDA recently approved an mHealth wearable that helps people dealing with chronic pain; AHRQ recently launched a digital tool that helps in chronic pain management; researchers at Navega Therapeutics have revealed a gene-editing technique for chronic pain treatment; and NeuroMetrix recently provided updates on its Quell Technology. These insights are discussed in detail below.
Biotricity’s Launch of a Pain Management Application
- In March 2020, Biotricity announced the launch of a chronic pain management application in partnership with CPM Centers for Pain Management, which is a subsidiary of “Canada’s largest provider of chronic pain management services,” NeuPath Health. With this launch, Biotricity hopes to address gaps in technology solutions for chronic pain diagnosis and management.
- The product is a software suite that has applications for physicians as well as patients. Patients can quantify and manage their pain and track progress. On the other hand, physicians can monitor patients’ progress, adjust treatments, gain insight on the interaction between pain treatment and management, and test different solutions for pain management with faster feedback.
- The company continues to develop a pain management application due to the fact that “20.4% of U.S. adults had chronic pain and 8.0% of U.S. adults had high-impact chronic pain” as of 2016, and the government is focused on innovation in the areas of chronic pain and the opioid epidemic.
FDA’s Approval of an mHealth Wearable
- In September 2019, the FDA approved Proclaim XR, Abbott’s mHealth wearable which uses targeted pulses of energy to help people dealing with chronic pain. This came as a result of Abbott’s successful study where patients reported pain relief after using the device.
- Proclaim XR offering a non-opioid technology that is safe and effective “for up to a decade of pain relief.” It delivers low-dose electrical pulses to change pain signals traveling from the spinal cord to the brain.
- It does not need recharging, is based on a mobile app and uses software that can be upgraded.
AHRQ’s Launch of a Digital Tool for Chronic Pain Management
- AHRQ recently launched an innovation that helps clinicians to better manage patients’ pain by using digital technology more. The tool, known as Factors to Consider in Managing Chronic Pain, is interoperable and helps clinicians to consolidate a patient’s scattered pain-related information into a single view.
- It is a free, open-source software package that makes use of key standards for exchanging healthcare data. On the dashboard, clinicians can easily access patients’ medical history, treatments, pain assessments and potential risks.
- It can be accessed by anyone through the company’s CDS Connect initiative, a platform where developers, innovators and healthcare systems “can share and learn from each other without starting from scratch.”
Gene-editing Techniques from Navega Therapeutics
- CRISPR, a gene-editing technique, has been revealed by researchers at Navega Therapeutics in California as a potential way to treat chronic pain. The technique was applied on mice administered with chemotherapy, which has been known to cause pain in cancer patients. If proven to be safe, it could provide humans with an alternative to opioids.
- The technology was used on mice to silence a gene that causes sensitivity to pain by transmitting pain signals along the spinal cord. It was seen to cause a decrease in overall pain for three different pain models.
- Human trials for the gene therapy are set to begin next year. It has unknown and unpredictable side effects as well as the potential for misapplication for military purposes, for example creating humans who are immune to pain.
NeuroMetrix’s update of its Quell Technology
- NeuroMetrix’s Quell Technology is an “advanced transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) platform designed for the symptomatic relief and management of chronic pain.” TENS is used to stimulate sensory nerves and, as a result, provide relief from pain.
- Quell technology uses a small wearable device to provide high-power, precise nerve stimulation. Neurometrix plans to offer prescription and consumer versions of this technology.
- Innovation in prescription TENS has been limited, and the company is targeting chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) and fibromyalgia in its prescription Quell pipeline. These two markets are significant with unmet needs: approximately 10 million Americans are affected by fibromyalgia, and about two-thirds of the approximately 650,000 patients that receive chemotherapy annually are affected by CIPN. There is an ongoing trial of Quell efficacy in patients with primary fibromyalgia pain, which would lead to the submission of “a 510(k) for a prescription Quell indicated for the treatment of fibromyalgia pain.”
Insights and Trends: Management of Chronic Pain
Two developing trends in the management of chronic pain in the United States are the use of mindfulness practices and stem cell therapy, which is a biological solution that is non-invasive.
Using Mindfulness Practices
- One trend in the management of chronic pain is to apply mindfulness practices, which involves patients getting in touch with their body to understand what it is trying to relay to them such as changes that need to be made.
- Mindfulness practices entail individuals studying their body and how they feel, while comprehending the impacts their posture, diet, stress, and activities may be having on their health and whether they are leading to pain. It helps individuals to focus both their body and mind, and if it is used daily, it can aid those suffering from chronic pain.
- Those with chronic pain often worry about pain, which can have a negative impact on their mood and worsen their pain by catastrophizing it. Mindfulness enables them to relax their body and recognize any sensations associated with their body and breath, helping them to pay attention to and manage their pain without judgment.
- Mindfulness can be utilized “as an adjunctive therapy to traditional chronic pain management.” It teaches people to turn toward their agony, lessening the severity of their pain. Some people use meditation and mindfulness practices to put chronic pain in a better or proper perspective to overcome their pain. People with chronic pain are encouraged to use mindful meditation for at least 45 minutes each day, as the practice offers improved benefits regarding well-being and health.
- Research has shown consistent use of mindfulness practices to be effective management tools for easing chronic pain. A study from Fadel Zeidan and others revealed that participants that were given mindfulness treatments “had less activation in the parts of their brains that manage pain messages”, and in some cases, the use of pain medications was either eliminated or diminished.
- People can take mindfulness training courses (in-person or online) or use mobile applications such as the ‘Headspace’ app (presents guided mindfulness and meditation methods), ‘Calm’ (provides meditation and mindfulness), or Insight Timer (provides guided meditations). The ‘Calm’ app has been downloaded more than 50 million times, while ‘Headspace’ has enjoyed over 10 million downloads in the Google Play Store. Meanwhile, ‘Insight Timer’ has around 6 million users.
Utilizing Stem Cell Therapy
- Another emerging trend regarding the management of chronic pain is the use of stem cell procedures or regenerative medicine. This process consists of extracting a patient’s cells and reinjecting them into the region of their body where they are experiencing pain. Afterward, the cells assists in healing injuries to parts of one’s body, including nerves and discs, by stimulating tissue and reducing inflammation. By regenerating healthy tissue, stem cell therapy can also combat degeneration.
- One probable reason for the rise in popularity of stem cell therapy for managing chronic pain is that it is a non-invasive procedure for those seeking low-risk treatment or that are not surgery candidates. Additionally, stem cell therapy has helped to diminish the utilization of surgery and prescription medication. It is mentioned that it is a pleasant means for “managing and potentially eliminating pain in the body.”
- Since stems cells serve as a natural resource, they can be used to alleviate chronic pain brought on by ailments such as degenerative disc diseases, arthritis, connective tissue injuries, neuropathy (nerve damage), and joint pain, among many others.
- Patients may recognize positive results from stem cell therapy gradually since the stem cells enter a rebuilding process, according to Pain Medicine Consultants, depending on their medical ailment.
- Furthermore, stem cells that are extracted from bone marrow in the human body have been noted as being the most effective source for aiding against chronic pain brought on by injuries.
Insights and Trends: Management of Acute Pain
Acute pain is short-lived and can stop when its underlying cause is treated, healed or contained. Today, there have emerged trends such as the use of medical cannabis and physical therapy, to contain acute pain.
- According to reports, 8% of American adults have had high-impact acute pain that strained or hindered at least one significant life activity. Since acute pain is expensive to treat in the U.S, many adults today have turned to medical cannabis to contain their pain affordably.
- Medical cannabis has proven to be an alternative form of pain management. Currently, 62% of Americans use medical cannabis for chronic pain management. While medical cannabis is emerging as a pain management trend for several conditions and symptoms, there is still an ongoing debate as to its safety and efficacy as far as its medicinal value is concerned.
- Currently, medical usage of cannabis in the U.S is mainly for acute pain management. However, it has also been used to treat chronic conditions, such as seizures, glaucoma, anorexia, and nausea. The ongoing opioid epidemic has prompted even more use of cannabis as acute pain management.
- Reports indicate that approximately 2.5% of people today are using cannabis annually, making it the most frequently used drug globally. The medical cannabis debate and research continues for both prescribers and acute and chronic patients.
- Studies show that 60 people are dying every day from an opioid overdose, in the U.S alone, an alternative and affordable pain management was needed. Hence, the rise of cannabis use has proven to contain acute pain and is also considered a less fatal option compared to other pain treatment options in the market today. Americans are using medical marijuana to treat acute pain conditions such as pain caused by an injury. Reports indicate that 94% of medicinal cannabis patients in Colorado are using cannabis to treat severe acute pain.
- An article published by WebMD, states that while most cannabis-based products are yet to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), anecdotal evidence proves that marijuana or its compounds can help alleviate acute pain.
- There are different types of marijuana plants that include; cannabis Indica, cannabis Sativa, and hybrids. These plants contain compounds such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) that may relieve acute pain.
- THC stimulates the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, which in turn awaken the brain’s reward system that relieves or reduces acute pain through a high or an elevated state of mind. On the other hand, CBD does not give a “high.” However, it interacts with the brain’s pain receptors to relieve acute pain and anti-inflammatory effects.
- Physical therapy, also known as PT, is becoming an emerging trend for treating acute pain caused by strains, sprains, concussions, or post-surgery. Physical therapy is effective in treating knee, jaw, back, spine, shoulder, and ankle injuries. PT is also used to treat general muscle aches or nerve-related aches in the finger or elbow.
- Other benefits of physical therapy include; improving balance and coordination to avoid sprains or strains, enhancing mobility and function restoration, pain elimination, or reduction. In some instances, PT is used to eliminate the need to undergo surgery caused by acute pain.
- Physical therapy focuses on the acute pain right on the specific muscles that need to be stretched or strengthened to alleviate the inflammation caused by an injury. Often, physical therapy can be combined with occupational therapy.
- Occupational therapy focuses on carrying out specific tasks such as opening jars, using the stairs or boarding and alighting a vehicle to reduce chances of acute pain.
- Physical therapy seeks to decrease acute pain through passive or active therapy. Passive therapy includes; placing ice packs on the problem area, dry needling, cupping, ultrasound, and manual therapies. Active therapy includes; pain relief exercises, stretching, low-impact aerobic conditioning, and specific strengthening exercises.
- Today, people are also using physical therapy to avoid or proactively counter acute pain before it happens. Athletes and people in competitive sports may need preventative care to avoid sprains or strains during sports. In this case, a physical therapist looks at the activity level and pattern, before coaching on how to prevent an injury, and to become aware when the injury is about to happen.