Digital Diary Method May Help with Fibromyalgia Pain Assessment

Editor’s comment: A technique known as “ecological momentary assessment” can be used to gather data on the physical and/or psychological states of individuals in their real-world environments at various moments in time. One method of doing this is by the use of a smartphone that signals an individual to make an entry in a digital diary several times a day on a random schedule. EMAs are thought to be more effective for assessing chronic pain than daily diaries because they capture real-time fluctuations in pain-related symptoms rather than depending upon individuals to remember how they felt throughout a given day.

Ecological momentary assessment for chronic pain in fibromyalgia using a smartphone: a randomized crossover study.

By A. Garcia-Palacios, et al.

Abstract:

BACKGROUND: Daily diaries are a useful way of measuring fluctuations in pain-related symptoms. However, traditional diaries do not assure the gathering of data in real time, not solving the problem of retrospective assessment. Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) by means of electronic diaries helps to improve repeated assessment. However, it is important to test its feasibility in specific populations in order to reach a wider number of people who could benefit from these procedures.

METHODS: The present study compares the compliance and acceptability of an electronic diary running on a smartphone using a crossover design for a sample with a specific pain condition, fibromyalgia and low familiarity with technology. Forty-seven participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions: (1) paper diary – smartphone diary and (2) smartphone diary – paper diary, using each assessment method for 1 week.

RESULTS: The findings of this study showed that the smartphone diary made it possible to gather more accurate and complete ratings. Besides, this method was well accepted by a sample of patients with fibromyalgia referred by a public hospital, with an important proportion of participants with low level of education and low familiarity with technology.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings of this study support the use of smartphones for EMA even in specific populations with a specific pain condition, fibromyalgia and with low familiarity with technology. These methods could help clinicians and researchers to gather more accurate ratings of relevant pain-related variables even in populations with low familiarity with technology.

Source: European Journal of Pain, July 18, 2014. By A. Garcia-Palacios, R. Herrero, MA Belmonte, D. Castilla, J. Guixeres, G. Molinari and RM Baños.

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