The step in time study: a feasibility study of a mobile app for measuring walking ability after massage treatment in patients with osteoarthritis

Sandra Grace, Roger Engel, Larisa Ariadne Justine Barnes*, Joanne Bradbury

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Massage therapy is a popular intervention for those suffering osteoarthritis, however, there is a paucity of evidence to support its effectiveness in osteoarthritis. A simple measure that could potentially assess the benefits of massage treatment is walking speed which is a predictor of mobility and survival length, particularly in ageing populations. The primary aim of the study was to assess the feasibility of using a phone app to measure walking ability in people with osteoarthritis. 

Methods: This feasibility study used a prospective, observational design to collect data from massage practitioners and their clients over a 5-week period. Feasibility outcomes included practitioner and client recruitment and protocol compliance. The app MapMyWalk was used to record average speed for each walk. Pre-study surveys and post-study focus groups were conducted. Clients received massage therapy in a massage clinic and were instructed to walk in their own local community for 10 min every other day. Focus group data were analysed thematically. Qualitative data from clients' pain and mobility diaries were reported descriptively. Average walking speeds were graphed for each participant in relation to massage treatments. 

Results: Fifty-three practitioners expressed interest in the study, 13 completed the training, with 11 successfully recruiting 26 clients, 22 of whom completed the study. 90% of practitioners collected all required data. A strong motivation for participating practitioners was to contribute to evidence for massage therapy. Client compliance with using the app was high, but low for completing pain and mobility diaries. Average speed remained unchanged for 15 (68%) clients and decreased for seven (32%). Maximum speed increased for 11 (50%) clients, decreased for nine (41%) and remained unchanged for two (9%). However, data retrieved from the app were unreliable for walking speed.

Conclusions: This study demonstrated that it is feasible to recruit massage practitioners and their clients for a study involving mobile/wearable technology to measure changes in walking speed following massage therapy. The results support the development of a larger randomised clinical trial using purpose-built mobile/wearable technology to measure the medium and long-term effects of massage therapy on people with osteoarthritis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number95
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2023. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Feasibility study
  • Limitation, mobility
  • Massage therapy
  • Mobile applications
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Walking speed


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