The future of physical therapy could be getting a lot more virtual. A recent study published in JMIR found that participants using Hinge Health’s digital exercise-therapy program decreased their pain by more than two-thirds.
“Hinge Health is the first digital MSK company to publish a peer-reviewed large-scale study,” Dr. Jeffrey Krauss, the chief medical officer at Hinge Health, said in a statement. “Hinge Health’s best-in-class adherence and elective surgery avoidance rates validates why we’ve made the market-leading investment to have both physical therapists and 10x more health coaches support participants with chronic MSK pain.”
On average, study participants reported a 68.5% improvement of pain measured by the visual analog scale (VAS) from the start of the study to the end of the study. Among those who finished the 12-week program, 78.6% reported minimally important changes in pain.
Researchers also looked at program completion rate. Over 73% of participants who started the trial finished. Those who completed the study demonstrated a greater pain reduction that their peers who did not finish.
The secondary outcomes of the study focused on depression. In the study researchers found that users reduced anxiety and depression by 58%.
HOW IT WAS DONE
The study included a total of 10,264 participants. Of those 3,796 had knee pain and 6,468 had lower-back pain for at least three months. Participants had to be between the ages of 18 and 80 in order to participate.
Each participant was mailed a computer tablet with the Hinge Health app and two Bluetooth wearable motion sensors, which are used during exercise. The Hinge program includes digital in-app exercise-therapy, where the patient’s sensors were able to indicate if the participant was in the correct range for each exercise. Every participant was also assigned a personal coach to text with. Subjects were also put into support groups where they could help each other with tech questions.
Participants were instructed to participate in the sensor-guided therapy up to three times a week.
THE LARGER TREND
While Hinge may have been first to the finish line with a large-scale study, there are several other digital health companies focused on treating musculoskeletal health. For example, Kaia Health is a digital physical therapy platform that landed $8 million in September.
There has also been research on different apps. In 2018, Kiio, an app-based back-pain-therapy program, teamed up with Quartz Health solutions on a one-year pilot of its product. The pilot, which enrolled 515 patients, found that those using the platform experienced decreases in medical spending, visits to providers, filled opioid prescriptions and other spinal pain-related outcomes.