BACKGROUND: Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability. Improving our understanding of pain occurrence and treatment effectiveness requires robust methods to measure pain at scale. Smartphone-based pain manikins are human-shaped figures to self-report location-specific aspects of pain on people's personal mobile devices.
METHODS: We searched the main app stores to explore the current state of smartphone-based pain manikins and to formulate recommendations to guide their development in the future.
RESULTS: The search yielded 3,938 apps. Twenty-eight incorporated a pain manikin and were included in the analysis. For all apps, it was unclear whether they had been tested and had end-user involvement in the development. Pain intensity and quality could be recorded in 28 and 13 apps, respectively, but this was location specific in only 11 and 4. Most manikins had two or more views (n = 21) and enabled users to shade or select body areas to record pain location (n = 17). Seven apps allowed personalising the manikin appearance. Twelve apps calculated at least one metric to summarise manikin reports quantitatively. Twenty-two apps had an archive of historical manikin reports; only eight offered feedback summarising manikin reports over time.
CONCLUSIONS: Several publically available apps incorporated a manikin for pain reporting, but only few enabled recording of location-specific pain aspects, calculating manikin-derived quantitative scores, or generating summary feedback. For smartphone-based manikins to become adopted more widely, future developments should harness manikins' digital nature and include robust validation studies. Involving end users in the development may increase manikins' acceptability as a tool to self-report pain.
SIGNIFICANCE: This review identified and characterised 28 smartphone apps that included a pain manikin (i.e. pain drawings) as a novel approach to measure pain in large populations. Only few enabled recording of location-specific pain aspects, calculating quantitative scores based on manikin reports, or generating manikin feedback. For smartphone-based manikins to become adopted more widely, future studies should harness the digital nature of manikins, and establish the measurement properties of manikins. Furthermore, we believe that involving end users in the development process will increase acceptability of manikins as a tool for self-reporting pain.
- Chronic Pain
- Mobile Applications
- Self Report