Wearable Devices: Current Status and Opportunities in Pain Assessment and Management

Andrew Leroux, Rachael Rzasa-Lynn, Ciprian Crainiceanu, Tushar Sharma

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: We investigated the possibilities and opportunities for using wearable devices that measure physical activity and physiometric signals in conjunction with ecological momentary assessment (EMA) data to improve the assessment and treatment of pain. Methods: We considered studies with cross-sectional and longitudinal designs as well as interventional or observational studies correlating pain scores with measures derived from wearable devices. A search was also performed on studies that investigated physical activity and physiometric signals among patients with pain. Results: Few studies have assessed the possibility of incorporating wearable devices as objective tools for contextualizing pain and physical function in free-living environments. Of the studies that have been conducted, most focus solely on physical activity and functional outcomes as measured by a wearable accelerometer. Several studies report promising correlations between pain scores and signals derived from wearable devices, objectively measured physical activity, and physical function. In addition, there is a known association between physiologic signals that can be measured by wearable devices and pain, though studies using wearable devices to measure these signals and associate them with pain in free-living environments are limited. Conclusion: There exists a great opportunity to study the complex interplay between physiometric signals, physical function, and pain in a real-time fashion in free-living environments. The literature supports the hypothesis that wearable devices can be used to develop reproducible biosignals that correlate with pain. The combination of wearable devices and EMA will likely lead to the development of clinically meaningful endpoints that will transform how we understand and treat pain patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-102
Number of pages14
JournalDigital Biomarkers
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Accelerometry
  • Ecological momentary assessment
  • Pain
  • Physical function
  • Wearable devices
  • mHealth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics


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