Abstract

Hypermobile-type Ehlers–Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) is characterized by connective tissue laxity resulting in excessive joint mobility. This can lead to instability of the cervical spine resulting in spinal cord compression and neck pain. People with hEDS often utilize commercially available cervical collars to provide head support, but these devices are not well-suited for this population. This work describes the development of a novel head support designed specifically to meet the needs of people with hEDS. The head support was developed using the principles of human-centered design, in which the end user is an active participant in the design process. People with hEDS were interviewed to identify limitations of existing support devices and desirable features of a new device. Input from the interviews was combined with structured design methods to generate initial designs. A prototype of a selected initial design was developed and evaluated by a person with hEDS. Feedback from this evaluation was incorporated into a second-generation design. This improved design stabilizes and supports the head while flexing to allow limited motion. It has an open, well-ventilated structure, and can be worn under clothes. By including end users in the design process, making effective use of computer-aided design and additive manufacturing processes, and gaining feedback through rapid prototyping, the product development process has been accelerated and focused on the needs of the end-user. Future work will continue to include people with hEDS as part of the design team to develop a high-functioning, affordable head support.

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