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Skype program could help seniors manage back pain

May 23, 2013

Lower back pain affects many older Americans, and if you're among them, a group of researchers believes you can find relief in a most unusual source. Experts from the University of Granada in Spain found that the popular video messaging program Skype could be used for "telerehabilitation," in which physical therapists can assess patients' progress over the Internet, according to a study published in the journal Spine.

The results were based on an analysis of 15 lower back patients who underwent face-to-face and video-based assessments with medical experts. Researchers determined both methods were equally accurate at measuring pain levels. Specifically, doctors were also able to measure levels of spine mobility, back muscle endurance and questionnaire-based assessments of discomfort levels. Experts believe this new advancement highlights another way that technology plays a role in healthy aging

"[The findings] give preliminary support to the implementation of web-based lower back pain assessment systems using video recordings that can be evaluated by different therapists," said university professor Manuel Arroyo-Morales.

This isn't the first time that the idea of telerehabilitation has been brought up, but in the past high operating costs prevented it from becoming a feasible option. With the availability of affordable video chatting options like Skype, however, it is more practical. The findings also come at a time when developers at the University of Virginia have created an iPhone app they believe can be used to speed up how quickly heart attacks can be identified and treated.

Researchers presented the program at American Heart Association's (AMA) Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions, and they believe the app can transmit diagnostic images to doctors more quickly than via email, which could mean the difference between life and death.