Suffering from lower back pain? A new smart underwear may help

WASHINGTON: Scientists have developed a smart, mechanised undergarment that can help reduce stress and pain on the lower back muscles. Engineers at the Vanderbilt University in the US combined biomechanics and advances in wearable technology to create the undergarment.

Over half of all adults will experience low back pain in their lifetimes, researchers said. The wearable device consists of two fabric sections, made of nylon canvas, Lycra, polyester and other materials, for the chest and legs.

The sections are connected by sturdy straps across the middle back, with natural rubber pieces at the lower back and glutes. The device is designed so that users engage it only when they need it.

A simple double tap to the shirt engages the straps. When the task is done, another double tap releases the straps so the user can sit down, and the device feels and behaves like normal clothes. The device also can be controlled by an app that the team created users tap their phones to engage the smart clothing wirelessly via Bluetooth.

Eight subjects tested the device leaning forward and lifting weights while holding their position at 30, 60 and 90 degrees. Using motion capture, force plates and electromyography, researchers showed that the device reduced activity in the lower back extensor muscles by an average of 15-45 per cent for each task.

The team’s testing proved that the smart clothing offloads stress on the low back. The focus of the technology is not to treat those with existing back pain but to prevent it by reducing stress and fatigue on the low back muscles.