When you’re at the doctors, being able to accurately communicate the amount of pain you’re in is one of the most valuable, yet hardest skills. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh have developed an app that they believe will help.
The app, known as ‘Painimation’, is believed to have the potential to better assess and monitor pain than existing measurement tools.
“Currently, our only available tools for patients to communicate their pain is to either give them 0 to 10 scales or a selection of words and phrases to describe their pain, methods that have been used for more than 50 years,” the researchers say. “Many pain patients will say their pain can’t be measured on the 0-to-10 scale and that it is too challenging to describe their pain using words. As a result, their pain is misunderstood and patients in pain may be prescribed more opioids without always knowing whether they are needed or if they are working.”
How much pain?
The app uses animations to help the users assess pain quality, type and location, after first helping them to describe the severity of the pain.
The animations are then increased or decreased in terms of their speed, color, saturation, focus and size in accordance to the pain the user is experiencing. Users can also identify where on the body the pain is to allow them to help their doctor as much as possible.
“By using animations, we have the potential to more quickly and accurately understand a person’s pain experience, and, more importantly, provide treatments that work and stop those that don’t,” the team say.
The app was developed in partnership with a number of psychiatrists, app designers and anesthesiologists to help them fully understand pain. They also worked with 202 patients who were experiencing chronic pain that lasts for months.
The app was then tested against the McGill Pain Questionnaire and the PainDETECT questionnaire, which are the current benchmark tests for assessing pain in patients. The results revealed that most users felt the app was enjoyable, with it enabling them to communicate the pain they’re in faster than the questionnaires. It also allowed a similar level of information to be communicated, so was useful for doctors.
“We believe using animations to measure pain can allow patients to not only describe pain sensations in a similar manner to how they experience them, but minimize potential barriers to pain assessment because the effects of language and literacy are taken out of the equation,” the team say. “Further, we can decrease the burden of long, detailed pain assessments while collecting pertinent information on each patient’s pain experience through an easy to administer, novel, and engaging medium.”