Rating the Quality of Smartphone Apps Related to Shoulder Pain: Systematic Search and Evaluation Using the Mobile App Rating Scale

Jonathon Agnew, Christopher Nugent, Catherine Hanratty, Elizabeth Martin, Daniel Kerr, Joseph McVeigh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The successful rehabilitation of musculoskeletal pain requires more than medical input alone. Conservative treatment, including physiotherapy and exercise therapy, can be an effective way of decreasing pain associated with musculoskeletal pain. However, face-to-face appointments are currently not feasible. New mobile technologies, such as mobile health technologies in the form of an app for smartphones, can be a solution to this problem. In many cases, these apps are not backed by scientific literature. Therefore, it is important that they are reviewed and quality assessed. Objective: The aim is to evaluate and measure the quality of apps related to shoulder pain by using the Mobile App Rating Scale. Methods: This study included 25 free and paid apps—8 from the Apple Store and 17 from the Google Play Store. A total of 5 reviewers were involved in the evaluation process. A descriptive analysis of the Mobile App Rating Scale results provided a general overview of the quality of the apps. Results: Overall, app quality was generally low, with an average star rating of 1.97 out of 5. The best scores were in the “Functionality” and “Aesthetics” sections, and apps were scored poorer in the “Engagement” and “Information” sections. The apps were also rated poorly in the “Subjective Quality” section. Conclusions: In general, the apps were well built technically and were aesthetically pleasing. However, the apps failed to provide quality information to users, which resulted in a lack of engagement. Most of the apps were not backed by scientific literature (24/25, 96%), and those that contained scientific references were vastly out-of-date. Future apps would need to address these concerns while taking simple measures to ensure quality control.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere34339
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 26 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This review was undertaken as part of a PhD studentship at Ulster University and funded by the Department for the Economy studentship. Invest Northern Ireland is acknowledged for partially supporting this research under the Competence Centre Programs Grant RD0513853 Connected Health Innovation Centre. The funders played no role in the design, conduct, or reporting of this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© Jonathon M R Agnew, Chris Nugent, Catherine E Hanratty, Elizabeth Martin, Daniel P Kerr, Joseph G McVeigh. Originally published in JMIR Formative Research (https://formative.jmir.org), 26.05.2022. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Formative Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on https://formative.jmir.org, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.


  • Mobile app
  • shoulder pain
  • mHealth
  • Mobile App Rating Scale
  • mobile phone
  • mobile app


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