Sensor Technologies to Manage the Physiological Traits of Chronic Pain: A Review

Sensors (Basel). 2020 Jan 8;20(2):365. doi: 10.3390/s20020365.


Non-oncologic chronic pain is a common high-morbidity impairment worldwide and acknowledged as a condition with significant incidence on quality of life. Pain intensity is largely perceived as a subjective experience, what makes challenging its objective measurement. However, the physiological traces of pain make possible its correlation with vital signs, such as heart rate variability, skin conductance, electromyogram, etc., or health performance metrics derived from daily activity monitoring or facial expressions, which can be acquired with diverse sensor technologies and multisensory approaches. As the assessment and management of pain are essential issues for a wide range of clinical disorders and treatments, this paper reviews different sensor-based approaches applied to the objective evaluation of non-oncological chronic pain. The space of available technologies and resources aimed at pain assessment represent a diversified set of alternatives that can be exploited to address the multidimensional nature of pain.

Keywords: accelerometry; body sensor networks; chronic pain; heart rate variability; image processing; objective pain assessment; skin conductance, electromyogram.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Chronic Pain / physiopathology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Pain Measurement
  • Physiology / methods*
  • Visual Analog Scale