Does your back bother you? If it does, you’re not alone. According to the CDC, approximately 25% of U.S. adults report low back pain over the prior three months. Non-specific lower back pain (NLBP) is the most common pain reported and nearly 14% of insured patients treated for NLBP are prescribed opioids. Pain treatment with opioids contributes to widespread addiction and abuse, but back pain’s payload comes with additional common comorbidities, including anxiety, depression, stress, and overall body function and wellbeing. We’ve written about several new technologies developed to combat back pain, including non-thermal lasers, virtual reality, and a smart shirt.

A recent report of a large independent randomized clinical study of NLBP treatments found that Kaia Health‘s Kaia back pain app had better patient outcomes than conventional treatments across all parameters, including pain and the common related problems and conditions. Kaia is a multimodal digital therapy for pain with three major components: physical therapy, relaxation exercises, and medical education. A team at the Pain Center of the Technical University Munich, Germany, headed up the study and published the results of in July in the Journal of Pain Research.

The NLBP study lasted three months and involved 1,245 NLBP patients at several medical institutions in Germany. The researchers randomly assigned 312 patients to the control group (CG). Physicians prescribed standard care treatments for the CG patients. The remaining 933 patients were in the intervention group (IG). Physicians working with IG patients used Kaia’s AI-driven treatment algorithm. Physicians also did teleconsults with especially high-risk patients. The research team assessed back pain and comorbidities for all patients at the beginning of the treatment period and after three months. According to the study, patients in the IG — those treated according to the Kaia health app — reported an average of 33.3% greater pain reduction than the control group (14.3%). The IG patients also fared better than the CG patients on the related conditions throughout the study. It’s also interesting to note that the patients who also participated in teleconsultation reported a 43.5% pain reduction.

The Kaia app study is significant not only for its success compared to conventional standard-of-care treatment but also because it involves such a common chronic condition that also carries a high risk of opioid abuse due to current care standards.