June 9, 2009
by Lisa Neal Gualtieri, Ph.D., Adjunct Clinical Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
I teach Online Consumer Health and Web Strategies for Health Communication in the Health Communication Program . While this doesn’t have to do with pain per se, the Web is an important way people learn about pain and seek peer support. The Web also is used for tracking pain. I first thought about this when speaking to a Rheumatoid Arthritis group at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, when it struck me how much information about the fluctuations in pain were not available for a physician during the patients’ visits. At the same time, input challenges are presented when a patient’s pain prevents him or her from using a computer.
Twitter, which has been recently popularized by Oprah, allows “microblogging”: writing 140 character or less messages. Twitter has been used for health applications, including the charmingly-named Qwitter . Twitter is now being promoted for pain tracking as well, and a blog post provides five easy-to-follow steps for someone new to Twitter to use it for this purpose. It has the advantages of ease of use and being free; there are tools specifically designed for pain tracking but they may have a steeper learning curve. Of course, the real question is if it provides benefits to the patient through peer support or tracking.