What works, for whom and under what circumstances?

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Some of the most challenging issues in research are so-called “wicked problems” - issues that are complex in terms of causal pathways, difficult to define and with no immediate solutions. Chronic low back pain is one such problem. It is a complex, long-term and recurring condition perpetuated by a combination of physical, social, and emotional factors that fluctuate in indeterminate patterns without a cure. This inherent complexity makes managing chronic low back pain a real challenge for healthcare. However, with the incidence of back pain on the increase due to our ageing population, it is not a problem we can afford to ignore. The economic impact of treating chronic low back pain costs the global economy billions each year; the personal costs are unquantifiable.

The COVID-19 global pandemic and the subsequent lockdown measures expedited the move towards digital healthcare technology but, in certain areas, the research to support its use is struggling to keep pace. Mobile Health technology is one such area. Although there are encouraging signs that self-management programmes delivered by a mobile app might be effective for people managing long term conditions, there is scant evidence on who may benefit from such programmes, why and under what circumstances.

The following presentation will attempt to address this knowledge gap. In this short talk, I will present my findings from a realist review of the literature on mobile apps to support people to self-manage chronic low back pain. Unlike the more traditional systematic review which seeks to answer, 'does this intervention work?’, a realist review has an explanatory purpose intent on creating theories as to how, why, for whom and in what context a programme might work. These theories, presented for the first time today, demonstrate that if delivered to the right person, at the right time and in the right context there is real, meaningful benefit to be had from self-management apps for chronic low back pain. In the light of the global pandemic, the timing of such findings could not come at a better time.

About the speaker

Rebecca HunterRebecca Hunter
Rebecca is a Pain Specialist Physiotherapist with NHS Highland and a PhD student at the University of Highlands and Islands. She has particular interest in digital health technology and the potential it has in providing equitable access to healthcare in remote and rural locations. Rebecca’s thesis is on digital self-management of chronic low back pain and in her presentation for BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, she is presenting some of her findings from her PhD research.

@RealBackstory | rebecca.hunter@uhi.ac.uk

The Real Backstory University of Highlands and Islands NHS Highland


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Webinar: Mobile apps for self-managing chronic low back pain
Date and time
Wednesday 22 June, 12:00pm - 1:00pm

This event is sold out