One of the leading causes of disability , low back pain (LBP) is the pain and discomfort, localised below the ribs and above the buttocks, affecting 619 million people globally in 2020. LBP is the fifth most common reason for physician visits, yet the current qualitative evaluation of LBP using questionnaires is subjective and may affect the effectiveness of the treatment.
To tackle these challenges, Prof. Ir. Dr. Fatimah Ibrahim and her team have developed a smart wearable device (MyE) for monitoring low back pain. The smart wireless electromyography (EMG) device is integrated with a smartphone-based application to monitor LBP rehabilitation remotely. The system consists of EMG acquisition hardware with signal processing and analysis software applications on smartphones.
The wearable device acquires EMG signals from erector spinae (ES) muscles at the L4 and L5 lumbar regions, which are then processed, amplified, and sent to the microcontroller for analogue-digital conversion. Real-time EMG signals of ES muscles are sent wirelessly to smartphone-based clinical applications and used to calculate Flexion Relaxation Ratio (FRR) and Extension Relaxation Ratio (ERR). The FRR and ERR values before and after interventions are compared to analyse muscle performance, and evaluate, as well as monitor the progress of LBP rehabilitation.
This transformational technology provides a quantitative measurement of muscle signals and degree of pain. The data collected is seamlessly transmitted via Bluetooth to the physician, thus establishing a valuable baseline for assessment. Based on the information received, the physician provides personalized instructions and exercise recommendations tailored to the patient’s rehabilitation progress and needs. The wearable and portable device is the size of a wallet, making it convenient for self-monitoring at home, consequently reducing the hassle associated with frequent hospital visits, especially for the elderly. On top of this, the MyE device boasts an affordable price compared to similar gadgets in the market, with monthly rentals as low as RM80 in government hospitals.
Low back pain monitoring and rehabilitation made smarter and easier with MyE smart wearable device.
The clinical trial, led by the team of engineers behind this invention and Associate Prof. Dr. Anwar Suhaimi from the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, was conducted from November 2019 to July 2020. The trial demonstrated a positive correlation between MyE LBP detection and Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) and Visual Analogue Scale (VAS). These compelling findings affirm the reliability and effectiveness of the MyE device for assessing LBP.
Such innovative solutions have not gone unnoticed. The Smart Wearable Device for Monitoring Low Back Pain Rehabilitation has won the Gold Medal at the Persidangan dan Ekspo Ciptaan Institusi Pengajian Tinggi Antarabangsa (PECIPTA 2022), as well as the second place (Cluster Engineering) at the 3rd Selangor R&D and Innovation Expo 2022. The invention was patented (PI 2020003417) and has been licensed by Nonivasi Care Sdn Bhd. It is currently in the pre-commercialisation phase and is expected to be in the Malaysian market by January 2024.