Wearable Health Technologies May Benefit Patients With Chronic Pain

Wearable health technologies may contribute to improvements in depression and decreased opioid use among patients with chronic pain.

Patients with chronic pain were found to be willing to use wearable health technologies (WHTs) for an extended period of time, and some evidence suggested that using WHTs positively affected depression and decreased opioid use, according to the results of a prospective observational study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain.

Patients (N=412) with chronic pain were recruited between 2017 and 2019 at Geisinger Medical Center in Pennsylvania. Patients who consented to participate in the study were provided with an iPhone equipped with the “Activity,” “Pillow,” and “Pain Watch” applications and an Apple Watch. Participants were instructed to wear their watch and keep their phone close by for 20 hours each day and to only remove the watch when bathing and for recharging. The outcomes of this study were clinical status at 1 year compared between patients who received the WHT plus the multidisciplinary pain program (MPP; n=105), the MPP alone (n=146), and usual care (n=161), which consisted of comprehensive medical pain management that included counseling and pharmacotherapy. The MPP intervention was designed to improve function and quality of life and included a 3-day multidisciplinary educational class and communications with the MPP team.

The mean age of the study population was 49.0 (standard deviation [SD], 12.4) years, 68.9% were women, 95.2% were White, and 24.8% had Medicaid or Medicare health insurance. The usual care group was younger (P =.036), more were smokers (P <.001), and fewer had depression (P =.014) compared with the other cohorts.

During the study, the WHT group demonstrated 63.2% adherence to the technology (engaging with the technology on 15,013 days), 64.8% used the WHT for 6 months, and 24.8% used the WHT for the entire year.

Continued research using WHTs of increased sophistication is warranted to investigate the potential of WHT to improve the negative consequences of chronic pain.

Compared with baseline, at 12 months all 3 groups had significantly decreased Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) scores (yearly change range, -5.08 to -7.83; all P ≤.01). The usual care group had a significant decrease in the numeric rating scale (NRS) score for pain (yearly change, -0.85; P <.01), Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) back score (yearly change, -11.68; P <.01), and morphine milligram equivalent (MME) dose for pain management (yearly change, -18.67 mg; P =.01). The WHT group also reduced their opioid MME intake (yearly change, -21.55 mg; P =.04).

A major limitation of this study was its lack of randomization.

The study authors concluded that patients with chronic pain who were willing to use WHTs were willing to do so for an extended period of time and that using WHTs may have contributed to improvements in depression and reduced opioid use at 1 year. The study authors conclude, “Continued research using WHTs of increased sophistication is warranted to investigate the potential of WHT to improve the negative consequences of chronic pain.”

Disclosure: This study was funded by Purdue Pharma, LP. Multiple authors declared affiliations with industry. Please refer to the original article for a full list of disclosures.


Han JJ, Graham JH, Snyder DI, Alfieri T. long-term use of wearable health technology by chronic pain patients. Clin J Pain. 2022;38(12):701-710. doi:10.1097/AJP.0000000000001076