Stress and pain go hand and hand, feed off each other, triggering more pain and headaches. One way to help our patients with chronic pain and headaches is to encourage mind/body techniques, like mindfulness, meditation, relaxation, CBT, yoga, Reiki and other modalities. One way to help get it started is to have them actually download an app (Insight Timer perhaps) in the office, showing them how to use it. There are few who actually try these things, but most are less than enthusiastic. Cue the eye roll…..
Accessing appropriate psychotherapy with a practitioner skilled in pain focused cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the gold standard but often very difficult. There are not enough providers, not enough availability when the kids can go to an appointment, not enough hours in the day of our busy adolescents. It is a challenge to get them what they really need to thrive despite chronic pain.
I have just become aware of a web-based app to directly address chronic pain in adolescents with pain-focused CBT. I have been exploring the app these past few weeks and want to share the details. It is an excellent resource for our teens, especially when community resources are limited. It is available for both iPhone and iPad and Android.
From the app write-up: “WebMAP Mobile is a program for teens who have problems with chronic pain like headaches, abdominal pain, or back pain. WebMAP Mobile is designed to help teens cope with pain and increase their ability to do things that are important to them.”
It is a brief CBT-based program, offering a journey through various destinations, where teens can learn about chronic pain, set goals for increasing physical activity, learn how to better cope with pain and manage sleep and mood. The steps are done in order, with a topic in each area, then skills/exercises to reinforce the lesson. There is tracking of symptoms with a personal pain check-in every time you open the app, and assignments to do to master skills. They estimate 6 weeks to complete the series, and you can go back to review information and techniques anytime.
The destinations (in order):
- Desert: pain education
- Snowscape: stress, emotions and thoughts
- Farm: managing negative emotions
- Island Paradise: relaxation training
- Urban escape: lifestyle and school
- Northern lights: insomnia
- Campsite: staying active
- Rainforest: relapse prevention, and maintenance
WebMAP Mobile was created by a pain psychologist Dr. Tonya Palermo and her team at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute. They adapted the app from an online pain treatment program called WebMAP, which stands for Web-based Management of Adolescent Pain, which teens could access on a computer through the internet. They have done clinical trials which support the benefit of this program.
What did I think? The presentation and language used in the tutorials was clear, concise, and just enough to demonstrate the concept without being repetitive (not boring!). It was age-appropriate and did not talk down to or over the heads of teenagers. The scenarios presented were relatable to teens, real-life examples of the challenges of many kids. The concepts are classic to CBT for pain management, which are well known to be effective for patients with chronic pain. And when you can get buy in from a teenager, these techniques are very effective.
I have started giving out a flyer with the information about the app to my patients. I have so many kids who either are resistant to trying therapy, have no close-to-home access, or just do not have the resources of time and money to do CBT with a therapist. This app provides information and exercises that they can do on their own time at their own pace. Did I mention that it is free? I will put the link for the flyer at the end and in resources for anyone to access. I am sure there are many of our patients who would benefit from access to WebMap Mobile.
I highly recommend this app, give it 5 stars!