Equipping patients with fibromyalgia with a portable digital assistant (PDA) allows individuals to accurately report their daily symptoms.
Knowledge of the time, severity and duration of symptoms helps patients and their doctors better understand links between pain, emotional distress and fatigue.
Pain researchers at the University of Utah and University of Washington studied 81 women with fibromyalgia to better understand reciprocal temporal relationships in this multi-symptom pain condition. The subjects were equipped with PDAs to report their pain, sleep problems, emotional distress and other concerns three times a day for 30 days.
Although the study used PDAs, iPhone, iPad or Android applications (or “apps”) — collectively called “mobile apps” — could also be developed to collect the same kind of data.
It was assumed that immediate reporting would overcome the disadvantages of recall assessments provided by patients to their physicians in periodic visits.
Recalled pain levels, the authors noted, are influenced by several factors, such as pain levels at the time of recall, overall emotional distress and patient beliefs about their condition.
The results showed that analyzing several measures of multiple symptoms longitudinally can be helpful in clarifying relationships among symptoms.
For example, previous pain was a significant predictor of both fatigue and emotional distress, and prior worsening of fatigue predicted current increased pain. Also, a previous increase in emotional distress predicted current fatigue.
Overall, the authors believe their findings support the utility of ecological momentary assessments (EMA) using iPhone apps, Android apps, or PDA devices daily for data collection to provide dependable longitudinal, real-time assessments of multiple fibromyalgia symptoms.
The initiative is reported in The Journal of Pain.
Source: American Pain Society