Wearable health technology (WHT) is becoming more commonly used by people in the chronic pain community. With these devices, chronic pain patients are able to track various aspects of their health. But can wearable health technology actually help to reduce the amount of pain that somebody feels? If so, what types of WHT should you look into to better manage your chronic pain? Read on to learn more.
The Link Between Wearable Health Technology and Chronic Pain
A recent study looked at a specific type of wearable health technology (WHT) that people with chronic pain used to monitor their movement, quality of sleep, and pain levels over the course of a year. They then shared these results with their health care team, who helped them to come up with a treatment plan for the pain.
Of the people in the study who consistently wore WHT versus those who did not, the people who used WHT reported less pain overall. Moreover, those who used WHT did not need as many prescription or over-the-counter pain medications to manage their pain. Interestingly, they also noted that they had less symptoms of depression.
Chronic pain and depression go hand-in-hand. When pain levels are higher and not well managed, it becomes more difficult to cope with mental health symptoms as well. Thus, when one’s physical health improves, often so does their mental health.
What this means is that WHT might be an effective way to help people with chronic pain manage their health and improve their quality of life. It’s important to note some limitations to the study, though. As with anything having to do with chronic pain, the pain reported is always subjective—there’s no real way of measuring how much pain somebody is in besides what they report. These reports vary depending on factors such as the type of pain, the cause of the pain, the location, the person’s pain tolerance, and more.
But even with that said, these surprising results from this study show the potential benefits of WHT for people with chronic pain. So, how exactly does it help?
How Does WHT Help?
The study concluded that wearable health technology can help those with chronic pain in several ways, including:
- Monitor symptoms—Regardless of the type of WHT, the point of the device is to track and monitor different health symptoms. This could be things such as sleep quality, blood pressure, heart rate, and more. WHT collects this data and most give a detailed report of the symptoms that the person experiences. For example, if somebody has a blood pressure (BP) condition, certain WHT can pinpoint moments where there is a spike in BP. This makes it easier for patients to keep track of their symptoms in order to report it back to their doctor.
- Get more precise care—With more accurate reports of the symptoms that patients experience, doctors are better equipped to offer more precise care. This means that pain management techniques can be tailored to exactly what the patient needs. As a result, pain management becomes more effective in reducing discomfort.
- Motivation to be well—WHT can be a great motivator to be active, stay hydrated, eat well, and get care when needed. People who use WHT might think it’s more fun and manageable to reach health goals because of how the device keeps a log of achievements. There are some WHT devices that allow you to compete against yourself and others to set personal bests when it comes to exercising or daily physical activity. For people who have chronic pain and those without, this is a great way to encourage movement that helps people to get and stay healthy. Plus, WHT allows you to collaborate with others in the chronic pain community. Working with others might even help patients to find exercises that can actually reduce pain over time.
All of these factors can contribute to someone’s positive experiences with WHT. Ultimately, what the study reveals is that some people with chronic pain can benefit from simply knowing more about their own health. But what you need or want to know will determine the type of WHT that will be most helpful for you.
What Types of WHT Can People with Chronic Pain Use?
There are many different types of wearable health technology, each measuring something different. The study discussed above had participants use an iPhone and Apple Watch to document their movements, sleep patterns, and pain levels.
Other devices can check for:
- Oxygen levels
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
- Steps taken
Additionally, many of these WHT devices pair with an app so that you can visually see the health information that is recorded. This is also where you can record influencing factors for your health, such as your pain symptoms, your energy levels, your diet, your medicine schedule, etc. When deciding on what WHT to get, consider these questions:
- What are your goals with using this device? Are you hoping just to track your pain levels? Do you also need the device to record information about your BP, blood sugar, or other vital signs?
- When do you think you would use the WHT most frequently? Remember that different environments—work, the gym, home, etc.—should also be taken into account when choosing wearable health technology. If you wear it at home to monitor your sleeping patterns, for example, the WHT you choose should be something that is lightweight and comfortable.
- What is your budget? WHT ranges from affordable to very luxurious. This will narrow down the type of device you would like to use as well.
If you’re unsure about what type of WHT would be best for you, you can talk to your doctor about the symptoms you most need to keep track of. On top of this, you can check in with the Pain Resource Community to see which WHT devices have been helpful for people who have similar symptoms as you.
If you already use WHT, be sure to share your experiences with others. Does your device help you to manage your health? Would you say that it helps reduce the amount of pain you feel and increase your quality of life? Your story could be exactly what somebody else needs to hear to get on board with wearable health technology and better manage their chronic pain.
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