A team of researchers at the Tohoku University have a new prediction method that employs pressure sensors installed on a conventional office chair. The study has been published in the 'Frontiers in Physiology Journal'.
Low back pain (LBP) is no stranger to office workers. In Japan, 1 out of 10 otherwise healthy office workers suffer from LBP. Stretching and exercise help alleviate the pain, but workers often do this when it is too late. But what if our chairs could alert us before the pain worsens? The "smart chairs" sensors detect workers' movements on the chair dynamically and quantitatively.
The smart chair was tested in a real-life setting outside of the lab. Amassing data from 22 study participants over a period of three months, the research group combed through the information to investigate the dynamics of sitting behaviour and identify a predictable lower back pain (LBP) progression. Further aided by various machine learning methods, the researchers discovered a common motif present in the sitting behaviour of most participants.
They pinpointed small motions in the body trunk that prevented the fixation of vertebral joints, therefore avoiding LBP's progression. The frequency of this motif could be used to predict the worsening of LBP throughout the day when compared to a morning reference state.
The research group hopes to apply the technology to other areas of the body. "Although the current method focused on LBP, we hope to collect data relating to head and neck regions to be able to predict and prevent stiff necks and headaches," said paper co-author Ryoichi Nagatomi.