Development of posture correction Tank-top synchronized with biofeedback muscle training for adolescents with early scoliosis

Student thesis: MPhil


Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is a multi-factorial, three-dimensional (3D) deformity of the spine which can appear during any of the rapid periods of growth in apparently healthy adolescents. Patients with early scoliosis or a Cobb's angle of 10-20 degrees only need to attend regular check-ups every 6 to 12 months. However, those with a spinal curvature that is over 21-45 degrees usually undergo therapy with the use of a brace made of rigid plastic material. Unfortunately, related problems with the brace, including an aesthetically unpleasing appearance, physical constraints and skin irritation may intervene with the social life of brace wearers which then results in low compliance. Back muscle strengthening exercises are thus recommended for scoliotic patients to strengthen their back muscles so that the trunk is maintained in an upright position with active muscular forces. However, patient compliance with the prescribed intervention exercises still present challenges. In light of these issues, this project aims to develop an innovative body mapping tank-top for adolescents with early scoliosis equipped with 3-axis accelerometer sensors that synchronized with pre-recorded surface electromyographic (sEMG) signals. The tank-top will be used to provide tailored posture training for adolescents with early scoliosis. It is designed so that the comfort of the users is maximized and the 3-axis accelerometer sensors are accurately positioned, therefore patients can wear the tank-top for a long period of time but their quality of life would not be affected.
The research method in this study comprises three stages, including: 1) design and development of the body mapping tank-top that allows for posture training; 2) subject recruitment and preliminary examinations; and 3) wear trial and evaluation. First, the tank-top is designed in accordance with the design process framework. Three 3-axis accelerometer sensors are used to monitor and record the real-time posture information of the users. In the second stage, the target subjects are recruited through a school screening program and a series of preliminary examinations are carried out to determine the degree of spinal deformity. Paraspinal muscle activity signals are detected by electromyography, and the posture of the subjects are assessed by using 3D body scanning and infrared thermography. Finally, in the third stage, a six month wear trial for posture training takes place, which involves 30 sEMG training sessions in a controlled environment. The training objective is to encourage the subjects to manage their muscle activity with minimal effort by using the sEMG training software which is synchronized with the posture monitoring sensors. The effectiveness of the training is evaluated in terms of sEMG signals and 3D ultrasonic imaging of the spinal situation. The major findings of this study are that after about 30 sessions of posture training, the majority of the participants are able to train their sitting posture so that it is relatively more balanced and involves a lower degree of muscle activity in terms of sEMG signals compared to their circumstances prior to the training. More importantly, 11 out of 12 participants have spinal curvature that is no progression, and 1 has a progression of spinal curvature that is more than 5°. Despite the size of participants in this study has a limited representative, this is still an encouraging result which warrants further study for the posture training of mild scoliotic patients. It is concluded that the sensors accommodated tank top can motivate patients to adopt a more active role, thus more effectively improving their control and coordination of movement and daily posture.
Date of AwardSept 2017
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorYiu Wan Yip (Chief supervisor) & Kit Lun Yick (Co-supervisor)

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