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Wearable technology

Can a Wearable Device combined with PT improve results?

A new publication from Kinesiology and Community Health assistant professor Manuel Hernandez looks at how use of a wearable device combined with physical therapy can improve patient results.

The paper, entitled, “Design of a Low-Cost, Wearable Device for Kinematic Analysis in Physical Therapy Settings,” was published in the June 2020 edition of Methods of Information in Medicine.

Hernandez said he hoped to learn if test subjects—who were from the Champaign-Urbana area—had a positive or negative experience with a novel wearable device, and to identify key areas for improvement in future versions of the device, so as to improve how well future wearable devices get adopted.

The wearable device, Hernandez said, was a standalone suite of sensors that track movement (using IMUs, or inertial measurement units), together with a power supply and mini computer (i.e., a Raspberry Pi), aimed at aiding physical therapy patients in improving exercise technique, through the classification of different upper extremity exercises, monitoring of progress, and biofeedback.

Participants were asked to complete nine upper-extremity exercises while wearing the device: Standing row; external rotation with arm abducted 90 degrees; external rotation; bicep curl; forearm pronation/supination; wrist curls; lateral arm raise; front arm raise, and horizontal abduction.

The aim, Hernandez said, is to validate the ability of the wearable device to accurately identify different upper extremity exercises using machine learning techniques and improve the ergonomics and usability of the device through further miniaturization, increased wireless connectivity, and development of a companion smartphone app.

“It is important to note that everyone is unique and will benefit from personalized care following an injury,” Hernandez said. “We hope that through the integration of smart devices together with evidence-based physical therapy practices, we can achieve improved rehabilitation outcomes, such as a higher restoration of function and speed up recovery, by providing an affirmation of exercise quality, feedback on progress, and minimization of re-injury.”

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