Study at the University of Calgary: Can Wearable Technology Prevent Back Injuries?

Nursing homes

The results of a new study on preventing back injuries conducted by the University of Calgary in Canada have just been released, and the consensus is that many injuries can be avoided with the assistance of wearable technology. While the study was centered on nurses, this technology can also be brought to other high-risk industries as well. According to Linda Duffett-Leger, lead researcher on the project and associate professor at the University of Calgary, many spinal injuries can be avoided if nurses are able to monitor posture and back health with a device named the Lumo Lift. Going forward from there, these wearables could prevent back injuries in almost any industry if the technology is employed accurately.

Nursing a High-Risk Job for Back Injuries

What many people aren’t aware of is that back injuries result in the loss of a great number of nurses around the world each year. While spinal injuries weren’t the only reason for a severe nursing shortage at one New Brunswick hospital earlier in 2018, the shortage became so critical that an emergency area of the hospital literally shut down. There weren’t enough medical professionals to keep the department open.

A great number of nurses who are injured on the job require back surgery in Calgary or spine surgery Thailand, which is just further proof that the crisis is worldwide. In fact, nurses are even more at risk for back injuries than construction workers, and that, alone, should indicate just how important preventative technology is within the industry. The good news is that the shut down of that hospital was only temporary, but the bad news is that nurses will still be susceptible to spinal injuries if proper precautions aren’t taken.

An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Study

The study was led by Duffett-Leger, RN, Ph.D., but there were also researchers from the computer science, engineering, nursing, and kinesiology disciplines as well. The findings indicated that nurses are not using proper posture for various tasks they are responsible for and lifting is just one of many. Carrying this concept over to other industries with tasks mirroring the same types of physical demands, it is possible to conclude that much of the sick leave due to back injuries could be reduced because devices like the Lumo Lift can trigger a response in the wearer to correct their posture.

While the results of the study were released in mid-May 2018, the study is now going to be brought into a clinical setting with nurses on the floor. These nurses will also play a key role in the design of the upcoming wearable, which will be better aimed at being more useful to the wearer. The participants wore the Lumo Lift while undergoing various tasks and the device provided enough feedback to indicate the need for further studies.

The Conclusion: Study Brings Hope to a Profession in Crisis

As well, an online survey of nursing students at the university collected data on musculoskeletal injuries sustained within the group of 236 respondents and that information was also included in the study. It is the hope of this group of researchers that back injuries which may result in the need for spine surgery will be significantly reduced, thereby ensuring the current nursing shortage will begin to subside. With back injuries and burnout the leading causes of nurses leaving the profession, the rest of the world eagerly awaits the final results and the newly designed Lumo Lift.