Saturday, December 27, 2014

Pilot study suggests wearable devices can help alleviate back pain

A major missing element, according to healthcare analytics startup Vivametrica, is context for the data generated and presented by these devices: what's needed is a comparison of an individual's activity pattern with the relevant sector of the general population, an assessment of the relative risks of different diseases based on these patterns, and personalised interventions designed to reduce those risks.

Vivametrica has been researching lower back pain caused by lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS), which, according to cofounder and chief operating officer Dr Christy Lane, "is the top reason for orthopaedic surgery in North America; it's a huge, costly problem, and what's happening is that people are getting thrown into surgery, which is often very successful, but there also are a lot of people who could avoid surgery through something like this".

Vivametrica's pilot study, released today, finds that body mass index is the best predictor of daily function in people with LSS, suggesting that weight loss and increased physical activity may improve the condition. The study also finds that objective activity measures from wearable devices eliminate the guesswork inherent in patient feedback such as questionnaires, allowing more targeted treatment. The use of wearable devices also empowers LSS patients to be more involved in their own health and encourages them to change their behaviour.

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