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My lifesaver apps

Hi folks

Been a while I know, had a pretty horrendous flare that left me unable to really use the laptop and I still haven’t got my head around blogging anything other than minor stuff from the phone.  However, it really got me thinking about how reliant I am on some of my phone’s features and downloadable apps.

Many of us have these wonderful smartphones nowadays, running an Android, Windows or Apple operating system.  I can’t say I have any experience of Windows smartphones so for now I will have to leave out references to them, although if one of you has one and would like to pipe up about whether any of the below apps are either available or useful on them, feel free!

 

MANAGE MY PAIN
Android only.
Lite version: Free
Pro version: £2.99

My number one, cream of the crop app for chronic pain sufferers is Manage My Pain from http://www.managinglife.com/  (available on the Play Store too).

As far as I’m aware, this app is so far only available to Android users, but there are other apps by different makers available for other operating systems (just searching now I see “My Pain Diary” for iOS/Apple, and “Pain Tracker Plus” for Windows phones – I haven’t used these so cannot comment on how good they are – experiences welcome!).

The Manage My Pain app is basically a record keeping tool for those in chronic pain, with free hosting of records on their servers to avoid losing data if your phone decides to throw a wobbler.  I have used it for around 7 months now – at first I had the free “Lite” version, which became so handy that I needed up upgrade to the “Pro” to allow myself the space for more records.  Both levels of this app requires an account but it is easily set up and totally free to do that.  I found it very easy and uncomplicated to upgrade from Lite to Pro, and I tend to be a bit of a numpty with that kind of thing.

Below is a rundown of the sections you are shown on opening the app.

Add a record:

Basically here you can create an in depth pain record detailing:

  1. Location of pain.
  2. Other associated symptoms.
  3. Character of the pain – does it burn, throb, ache, stab?
  4. Aggravating factors.
  5. Alleviating factors – including a recent update to allow you to tick whether any of them worked, which is more handy than it sounds.  This aspect means that your results can show whether things like your prescription medications, or heat therapy actually helps or is ineffective and to what extent.
  6. Timing of the pain.  This aspect can be difficult as it is offered in seconds, minutes or hours and at times my pain has gone on relentlessly for days – meaning I sit and calculate the hours in a week for example, or have to make more than one record.  However that’s more my body being difficult than the app and it does allow you to pinpoint whether pain is breakthrough, constant or intermittent at this point.
  7. Environment.
  8. Severity – a typical 0 to 10 rating scale.
  9. Notes – this comes in handy to jog your memory as to anything else you think was relevant or might remind you in the future which record you are looking at.

1 to 5 above are personalisable checklists, allowing you to totally pinpoint the area and character of the pain, and also the factors that help or hinder it.

Results:

Here you can view comprehensive or specific aspect results in various forms such as a summary, pie charts, a timeline, calendar, or just a list of all your records.  I have found certain aspects of this far more useful than others.  For example, other than out of bored curiosity, I haven’t really bothered with the charts.  I have however found the timeline incredibly useful as I can see the pattern of pain levels and whether on the whole I am worse or better than say 2 or 3 months ago.  You can alter the time shown in the timeline itself too.  Regardless of which format suits you for this section, it is worth saying (even though it sounds quite obvious) that you get out of this section what you put in.  If you only have two records, then your results aren’t going to be especially illuminating, but once you’ve been using the app enough to get a few records saved, you’ll be surprised how handy it becomes.

Reports:

This section allows you to create, view and email a report based on your records and results.  I haven’t actually had the chance to use this yet as my pain doctor is, well, a chocolate teapot, and won’t even look at a paper list of symptoms, never mind this.  However, for those of you who have good relationships with your pain doctor, this could be invaluable.  I know of many people who keep paper records of their pain and take them to appointments, and this could be another similar way of making your voice heard.

Sync:

Allows you to synchronise your saved reports with your online account, meaning that you have a backup online, or have the ability to have the app on more than one device.  Or, should you change your mobile/tablet, you know your records are there just by downloading the app and logging in to sync.

My Profile:

This is partly set up when you first register but it totally editable.  Info such as your account information, a list of your pain conditions, and a little “About Me” section personalises things.  There are two sections on this part of the app that aren’t ‘live’ as yet, both relate to your medical information and are “coming soon”.

The last section of the app is About this App and is the usual information on makers, with links to FAQ, a user guide and features page, and contact information.

The Pro version of this app allows you to keep unlimited records of your pain, whereas the Lite version allows you ten at a time – which is doable for the lighter user or one who can really make the effort to blend reports a bit to get the picture they need.  I found it easier just to pay the couple of quid to get the pro version and I’ve certainly got my money’s worth out of it.

It’s not without its problems, but what I can honestly say for them is that they listen to what you’re struggling with and genuinely take it into account for future updates.  I visited their Facebook page fairly early on in my use of the free version and mentioned how it would be helpful to be able to say whether the “Alleviating factors” were actually helpful, and lo and behold, the next update gave that section a double check list for what you have tried and what actually helped (or didn’t).  They seem pretty dedicated to making the app work and work well.

All in all I would definitely recommend giving the free version a try and seeing if it suits you.  Sometimes just being able to look at the timeline of results and say “Well x is obviously working”, helps you see the bigger picture of your pain when you’re struggling.  Or if your pain is clearly increasing, it’s a visual record to show people who should be helping bring that level down – not just a tearful person turning up in A&E without “backup” (as I have done!).  If I used this app to its full potential and had a go with the reports section, I really think it could push my treatment forward too, however as it stands from my personal experience, those in other countries might find that section more useful than I have.  Over here so far the docs I have encountered might scoff at the idea of participating/reading it.  Others might have a different view on that though!  What do you think?

 

MALUUBA
Android and Windows
Totally FREE

The next app I can’t seem to live without at the moment is Maluuba.  I think this app deserves it’s own huge review, especially for those who are blind/partially sighted, as my husband is.  I am going to be a bit shorter in my review of this – it is basically a Siri for iPhone alternative for those with Android and Windows phones.  Actually to call it a Siri alternative is unfair as the two apps have very different approaches to the same tasks.  Maluuba is a voice or typing controlled app that brings together calendar, alarm clock, a Wolfram Alpha information search (like Siri does) and a more comprehensive Yelp.com search and slings in a dash of GPS personalisation, Facebook integration, and other wonders.  To give a couple of examples of what Maluuba can do, here are some voice commands I have tried so far:

  1. “What movies are showing near me?” – brings up local (GPS) cinema listings, times, Rotten Tomatoes reviews, and more.
  2. “I’m sick”/”I’m hungry”, etc – brings together a Yelp.com list relevant to your comment, including links to reviews for the services/businesses you need (eg. restaurant reviews).
  3. “What’s the weather like today/tomorrow/Wednesday near me/in London/etc?” – brings up a local or specific and comprehensive weather report for the days you ask, and more.
  4. Voice controls for opening and searching some apps such as music player.
  5. “Text/Email Lisa and say I will be there soon” – or words to that effect.  Sends SMS messages, emails, reminders, to your contacts.
  6. “Remind me I have a doctor’s appointment at 3 o clock on Friday” – will even send a reminder to someone else you want it to.
  7. All can be linked in to navigation through Maps, calendars on phone/Google, it will even make a reminder for you and send it to anyone else you need to remind or share the information on your Facebook account.

Now that’s nowhere near as much as this app can do, there are more comprehensive guides on the website: http://www.maluuba.com/

I can hear the cogs working, you’re wondering how this is relevant to chronic pain.  It’s not really, but the bringing together of all its functions means I don’t have to open the browser and manually type/search, which is handy when you’re laid up and sore.  That and it’s been pretty fun to mess around with!  iPhone 4s and above users obviously have Siri as an alternative, and Siri does have some benefits over Maluuba, such as being almost its own little character due to its ability to speak the answers to you, which Maluuba cannot do (I have not tested this with the Android Accessibility TTS function as yet – I will update).  Maluuba doesn’t have the funny answers Siri has that have you testing Siri just for a laugh either.  However, I have found pros and cons to both apps and out of the Android alternatives, Maluuba wins hands down.  It’s not perfect, it does have the odd quirk that can irritate, such as not being very accurate at listening as it is still loading and for some reason (until the last update) not having country specific results in it’s “Shopping” section, but it has helped me quite a bit recently, particularly with trips outside of my local area.  I’ve used it to find a place to sit and have a coffee in London, when I was tired and sore in a crowded Covent Garden and couldn’t see the woods for the trees.  I’ve used it to search information on Wolfram Alpha (similar to Wikipedia) without having to open the browser and search.  The most used aspect of this app has been the reminder function, being able to sort out my brain fog by creating reminders for medications, appointments, etc, and being able to share them with others.  It also incorporates my calendars including Facebook and Google, so it has been great for jogging my memory.   It takes up a fair bit of memory space but I would give it a try and see if it amazes or irritates you!

 

TVCATCHUP
Android, Windows and iPhone
Totally FREE

Not the huge review I’ve done for the other apps, but this is a handy app that allows me to watch the free TV channels on my mobile.   Available from the Play Store.  Not exactly groundbreaking, but a boredom breaker when you can’t sit in your living room and are confined to bed without a TV.  How could I live without Judge Judy?  ;o)

 

KINDLE
Android, Windows and iPhone
Totally FREE

Another app I couldn’t live without.   Available from the Play Store or Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk    I do actually have a Kindle, but I gave it to my daughter as with my pain levels, when I’m laid flat it is cumbersome and digs into my arm when held.  Having the free app gives you most of the benefits of having a Kindle (and if you’re like me and only had the basic wireless Kindle, it adds the benefit of a backlight instead of you needing a lamp).  I seriously couldn’t survive without my books and I have not found a better alternative to Kindle.  There are other similar apps such as the Barnes & Noble alternative “Nook”, and Google Play Books.  I haven’t managed to get into either because I just really didn’t need to – Kindle has a better range of books and I didn’t find anything about this app that made me think twice about trying another.

 

So, at the end of all that, I am going to say that I probably will go off and think “Oh poo, I forgot X, Y or Z” and edit this entry to add more apps.  So, please don’t feel like you’re adding to my workload if you would like me to try an app and review it on this post, or if you’d like to add your thoughts to this post.  Just email me or comment below!