Performance Boosting Underwear Helps Ease Lower Back Pain
A team of engineers from Vanderbilt University just unveiled a mechanized super undergarment that can prevent its wearer from suffering from lower back pain without being obvious about it or buying special furniture.
The super suit, which can be worn under the usual layer of clothing, consists of two fabric sections connected by durable straps that help offload stress on the wearer's back. The straps can be activated by tapping twice on it or through a smartphone application connected to the undergarment via Bluetooth.
According to several tests on eight subjects, the smart undergarment effectively reduced stress on the lower back even when they were made to lean forward at angles of 30, 60, and 90 degrees while lifting 25- and 55- pound weights. Test results showed consistent lower back stress reduction averaging from 15 to 45 percent, compared with the strain on the test subjects' back without the suit.
As mentioned earlier, the smart underwear consists of two sections: chest and legs wear. Both sections are composed of polyester, Lycra, and nylon canvas and they are connected by a mechanized strap connected at the back.
When the suit is activated, it transfers some of the accumulated stress on the wearer's lower back to the elastic straps. When it is deactivated, it automatically loosens so that the wearer could sit down or do something else.
"This smart clothing concept is different. I see a lot of health care workers or other professionals with jobs that require standing or leaning for long periods. Smart clothing may help offload some of those forces and reduce muscle fatigue," co-investigator Dr. Aaron Yang said.
Dr. Yang specializes in non-surgical treatment of back and neck at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
According to principal investigator Karl Zelik, the main task of the undergarment is to prevent lower back pain so it is not in any way a way to treat the condition. Zelik is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University.
Watch the "super suit" in action below.
How The Smart Suit Concept Began
Professor Zelik jokingly likened his team's mechanized undergarment to those used by popular comic book heroes, but he also clarified that it is used to fight a different enemy: back pain.
"I'm sick of Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne being the only ones with performance-boosting supersuits," Zelk said.
However, Professor Zelik's goal was more realistic since it also affects him whenever he tries to carry his 2-year-old son.
The team's next task is to determine how they can embed sensors in the undergarments to automatically engage the straps when the stress begins to pile up since, of course, there are times when a wearer's hand may not be available for a manual activation.