The efficacy of mobile health interventions used to manage acute or chronic pain: A systematic review

Christie L. Martin, Caitlin J. Bakker, Melissa S. Breth, Grace Gao, Knoo Lee, Mikyoung A. Lee, Victoria L. Tiase, Lily J. Tunby, Tami H. Wyatt, Lisa M. Janeway

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Chronic pain is a significant health issue that affects approximately 50 million adults in the United States. Traditional interventions are not always an effective treatment strategy for pain control. However, the wide adoption of smartphones and the rapid growth of health information technologies over the past decade have created opportunities to use mobile health (mHealth) applications (apps) for pain tracking and self-management. In this PRISMA-compliant systematic review, we assessed the current U.S.-based research on pain-related mHealth apps to describe the app components and determine the efficacy of these interventions for persons with acute or chronic pain. We conducted a comprehensive search of five databases based on methodological guidelines from the Joanna Briggs Institute. We included articles reporting original data on mHealth interventions with pain intensity as a primary or secondary outcome and excluded articles that utilized multimodal interventions. Of the original 4959 articles, only five studies met the eligibility criteria. Most of the interventions included feasibility or pilot studies, and all studies were published between 2015 and 2018. Two of the five studies used visual analog scales. Only two of the studies reported statistically significant pain intensity outcomes, and considerable heterogeneity between the studies limited our ability to generalize findings or conduct a meta-analysis. Research investigating the components and efficacy of pain-related mHealth apps as interventions is an emerging field. To better understand the potential clinical benefits of mHealth apps designed to manage pain, further research is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-128
Number of pages18
JournalResearch in Nursing and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Wiley Periodicals LLC

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • computers/technology
  • functional ability/restoration
  • health problems/pathological states/disease categories
  • information systems
  • pain
  • self-care
  • systems research/multisystem issues
  • systems research/patterns of care

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Systematic Review


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