Knee, hip rehab made easier with Waterloo developed system

System easier for patients and cheaper for clinics.

Physiotherapy patients can get more accurate feedback on rehab exercises and clinics can save money thanks to a new system developed by researchers at the University of Waterloo.

A physiotherapist teaches a patient to use the SWORD system to perform exercises. Sword Health

By Kate Bueckert, CBC News May 22, 2017

Professor Dana Kulić and Agnes Lam, a former engineering graduate student, led the team that developed a technique that combines motion sensors with software to help people recovering from knee and hip replacements.

Many physiotherapy clinics currently have systems – similar to motion capture which is also used to make movies or video games – but they might involve patients getting into a special suit or having markers attached to their bodies.

The system is accurate, but it’s a process that can take 15 to 30 minutes to get a patient ready, Kulić said.

“The new part here is the accuracy and the ability for detailed and accurate feedback to both the patient and the therapist,” she said of the school’s recent research, which was published in the journal Human-Computer Interaction.

“Our objective was really to try to get measurement accuracy that was sufficiently high so we could really use it for physiotherapy movement analysis and technology that would be portable and cheap and easy to use and easy to deploy in the clinical setting.”

Tested on patients

The UW researchers tested the system on patients at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Guelph to get feedback.

Small, wearable sensors were attached to patients depending on what joint they were exercising.

The sensors then measured velocity and acceleration as the patient did their exercises and provided a visualization on a screen to show the patient and the physiotherapist how the person was moving.

“We can also use the same system to record a movement from the physiotherapist and then we can overlay the movement of the physiotherapist – which is kind of the guidance to the patient, what they should be doing – with the movement of the patient so that patient can immediately see how close they are to doing the target motion,” Kulić said.


The patients loved the system and it was easy to use, Kulić said. Some even asked if they could buy the system and take it home.

“They thought this would be very helpful for reassuring them that they were doing the exercise correctly because of course, some of these patients, they still have pain from the surgery. So when you’re doing the exercise, the exercise can be quite painful and they’re not sure if the pain is indicating maybe they should stop,” she said.

“They found it motivating to have something counting their repetitions and giving them feedback.”

The research was supported by Cardon Rehabilitation and Medical Equipment Ltd. in Burlington, Ont., which is now looking to commercialize the system.

Source CBC News


  Further reading

Human pose recovery using wireless inertial measurement units, Lin JF, Kulić D. Physiol Meas. 2012 Dec;33(12):2099-115. doi: 10.1088/0967-3334/33/12/2099. Epub 2012 Nov 23.

Human pose recovery for rehabilitation using ambulatory sensors, Lin JF, Kulić D. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2013;2013:4799-802. doi: 10.1109/EMBC.2013.6610621.

Segmenting human motion for automated rehabilitation exercise analysis, Feng-Shun Lin J, Kulić D. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2012;2012:2881-4. doi: 10.1109/EMBC.2012.6346565.

Also see
Device allows patients to work remotely with physiotherapist from comfort of home in CBC News
Tech improves physiotherapy using sensors, machine learning in EP&T

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