JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2022 Aug 26;10(8):e39682. doi: 10.2196/39682.
BACKGROUND: The role of self-management in health promotion, as well as prevention and rehabilitation, is increasing through the use of mobile health (mHealth) apps. Such mHealth apps are also increasingly being used for self-management of low back pain (LBP), but their effectiveness has not been sufficiently explored.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this scoping review was to provide an overview of the literature on self-management mHealth apps and their effects on the levels of pain and disability in people with LBP.
METHODS: We applied the PRISMA-ScR (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews) methodology, including a priori research questions. A literature search was conducted in 2 databases (PubMed and PEDro) for studies published between January 1, 2015, and June 17, 2021. Interventional, cohort, or case series studies with an interventional period were included if the mHealth app included built-in self-management content, the app was used for self-management for people with LBP, and the study reported outcomes regarding pain and disability in people with LBP.
RESULTS: In total, 7 studies were selected for the review with overall 2307 persons with LBP, of whom 1328 (57.56%) were women. Among the studies (5/7, 71%) that reported the type of pain, 85% (390/459) of the participants were experiencing chronic LBP. A total of 5 different mHealth apps were identified, of which 4 contributed to a statistically significant reduction in LBP and clinically meaningful changes. Of the 7 studies, 4 (57%) used 4 different assessments for disability, of which 3 (75%) showed statistically significant improvements in the level of functional ability of participants in the experimental groups using an mHealth app with built-in self-management content for LBP.
CONCLUSIONS: This scoping review supports the conclusion that people with LBP may benefit from mHealth apps that provide self-management content. However, the generalizability of the findings is limited because of heterogeneity in the pain characterization of the included participants and the intervention durations. More high-quality studies with longer follow-up periods to investigate personalized mHealth approaches are recommended for LBP self-management.