Chronic back pain is a disorder which affects a large portion of the American population at some time during their lifespan. There are many causes for lower back pain and usually can be an indicator of a serious medical condition. This problem plagues the nation and the world leading to an estimated annual cost for back pain treatment amounts to $50 billion. This problem isn’t isolated to just the United States either, the world at large suffers from back pain and unfortunately modern treatment methods are effective but the technology simply hasn’t progressed in decades. The main drawback appears to be the rigidity of the device, which limits flexibility and comfort. The soft pneumatic actuators of this newfound device have the potential to provide the appropriate applications chronic back pain suffers and post-surgery patients.
In this work, the design and development of a soft robotic back orthotic device that has the capability to relieve back pain by assisting patients to fully achieve the upright position and stabilize the lumbosacral spine, is presented. The soft robotic actuators of this device allow the support to be disabled when the patient is in a supported position. Unlike conventional robotic assistive devices, this pneumatically actuated back orthosis provides dynamic support while being lightweight, comfortable, and cost affordable. After testing the device in a laboratory environment, the data overall displays a trend decreasing in EMG activity of the Erector Spinae muscles. This reduced activity leads to a reduction in strain on the patient.