iCanCope Crew: A new virtual research opportunity for youth with chronic pain

How iCanCope Crew can help both you and your patients with chronic pain (ages 12-18).

~5 minute read

1 in 5 youth in Canada have chronic pain.

This pain can negatively impact all aspects of life including sleep, activity, school attendance, peer relationships, and mental health. The developmental period of adolescence also represents a critical window of opportunity to learn and practice effective pain self-management behaviours to improve function and minimize future pain-related disability.

The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed access to chronic pain treatment, and dramatically disrupted the structure and daily routines that are critical for pain self-management. It is more important than ever to be able to offer virtual tools and resources to your chronic pain patients. However, it can be challenging to know which specific apps or programs to recommend.

Due to the rising demand for virtual care solutions, Birnie and colleagues (2020) synthesized an Evidence and Gap Map of virtual care solutions for youth with pain and their families. One of the few evidence-based interventions identified by this review was iCanCope with Pain, developed by The Hospital for Sick Children and University Health Network (http://icancope.ca).

iCanCope is a smartphone-based pain self-management program.

It was designed to empower youth with chronic pain to build self-management skills and track day-to-day symptoms commonly associated with chronic pain. The iCanCope app is currently being evaluated in tertiary care chronic pain clinics through a multi-centre RCT, supported by CIHR and the Chronic Pain Network.

A top priority of the Hospital for Sick Children and the SickKids Pain Centre is to increase opportunities to take part in research studies among people who live far away from hospital sites. To help support this goal, the iCanCope team has just launched a new study that uses Apple’s ResearchKit platform to empower participants to complete all study activities from their own smartphone, at their own pace.

iCanCope Design Principles

  • Keep it simple
  • Help me support my life, not just my pain
  • A friendly and safe space for me

iCanCope Crew is the ResearchKit-enabled version of the iCanCope app. The corresponding research study is open to 12-18-year-olds in Canada with chronic pain. This research trial is innovative because it is first of its kind in Canada to use ResearchKit to enroll youth with chronic pain and facilitate all study activities.

Youth who consent to the study will have a chance to try out two versions of the iCanCope app. They will have access to features such as symptom tracking, goal setting, a community of other youth with pain, and a library filled with pain self-management articles and videos. All app content has been developed and medically reviewed by The Hospital for Sick Children.

5 Ways iCanCope Can Help Your Patients

Watch this 60-second video on 5 Ways iCanCope Crew can help your patients!

Getting Started with iCanCope

For your patients
If you care for any patients ages 12-18  who may be interested in this iCanCope Crew research study send them a link to this video (https://youtu.be/mzDOd8-RHEQ) for a study introduction and instructions on how to enrol.

For you, the healthcare provider
If you are interetsted in a demo account complete this application form. 

Your patients enrolling in the iCanCope Crew study, can help you in your practice! iCanCope Crew supports:

Symptom tracking

We can provide check-in data to healthcare providers.

Often before beginning pain treatment, it’s helpful to track pain levels and symptoms to help identify trends and potential triggers. It can also be useful to monitor certain conditions.

On the iCanCope app users can complete daily reports of their pain intensity, interference, physical activity, energy, mood, and sleep. Users can also view interactive summaries of these data to help spot trends over time.

“I had a [pain] flare for a while and then got a rash, so we thought maybe I had shingles again. So I went back to my [app] history and was able to tell the doctors when the flare-up started. We all found it really useful.”

-iCanCope Study Participant


By supporting our research, you are helping to set a standard for eHealth and mHealth technology utilized in healthcare.

There is a high need for credible and reliable pain self-management programs that can be virtually accessed by youth with chronic pain.  The lack of rigorous evidence for eHealth and mHealth programs is a significant issue. A scoping review by Lalloo et al found that only 8% of publicly available “pain apps” involved a healthcare provider in development or evaluation. In contrast, the iCanCope app has been rigorously developed by a team of clinicians, researchers, and patient partners from across Canada.

Self-management strategies

There are over 100 education articles and videos in the iCanCope app with vetted information that you can trust.

Self-management content in the library focuses on pain education as well as psychological and physical strategies for managing pain. The library also has content to support skills development in communication and goal-setting, which can be helpful when learning how to manage a chronic condition.

“It was kind of nice to…have that information at my fingertips when I need to remind myself: ‘oh yeah this is how I do this and this is how I can cope easier with this’.”

-iCanCope User

Questions about iCanCopeCrew?

Email vina.mohabir@sickkids.ca or send a message below.