Back pain is a widespread condition that can be chronic for many people, and for some others, it can be quite profitable. According to the American Spinal Decompression Association, 20 to 30% of adults in the U.S. suffer from back pain at any given time. During our lifetimes, 80% of us will experience severe back pain. Back pain lasts longer than 12 months in 75% of cases. The total cost of treatment and care exceeds $26 billion annually according to Duke University research, which does not include the cost of lost productivity. We’ve looked at a wide variety of technologies that are designed to help people with chronic back pain, including Adela Health‘s smart shirt. DorsaVi‘s ViMove sensors track movement and muscle and electrical nerve activity to help users lessen their pain. The Valedo wearable works with interactive games on mobile devices that make it more fun to perform exercises to strengthen back muscles. The list goes on and on. It’s clear no one solution to chronic back pain will work for everyone. We’d all be better off if opioids weren’t so widely asked for and prescribed for chronic back pain. The market size of a chronically painful malady that afflicts four out of five adults during their lifetimes allows for many solutions.
Boston-based Kaia Health has a multimodal app-driven program for coping with back pain. Available by subscription, the holistic program includes physical exercises, mindfulness practices, and general education. According to Kaia, a personalized selection of 150 physical exercises can help regain mobility by strengthening and stabilizing the core muscles. The exercises are presented within the mobile device app. Following a 15-30 minute exercise session, users give feedback via the app regarding their success and preferences. While not explicitly explained on Kaia’s website, the exercise program apparently starts users with a small subset and recommends alternatives based on the user’s needs, preferences, and progress. The mindfulness exercises teach users to quiet themselves and decrease their stress levels; which often can be a factor with chronic back pain. The general education content centers on the causes or triggers of pain as well as beneficial behavioral changes. Kaia’s Medical Director, Professor Dr. Dr. Thomas R. Tölle has both an MD and a Ph.D. in Natural Sciences (hence the “Dr. Dr.”). Tölle’s focus throughout his career has been interdisciplinary approaches to pain. According to internal studies, patients using the Kaia program achieved an average of 40% pain reduction within 20 days. Academic studies are pending.
Individual pricing for Kaia Health ranges from $30 on a monthly payment basis to $240 on an annual payment plan. Kaia is eager to partner with employers who want to enroll their workers in the Kaia program as a way to reduce absenteeism.