We investigated the given information about high global prevalence and great individual impact and discovered the true extent of the problem. The spinal regions of humans have different curvatures, transitioning from convex to concave when observed from superior to inferior, from the thoracic vertebrae to the lumbar vertebrae. This is the ideal structure to best bear the weight and stabilize the body by maintaining the center of gravity in the vertical axis. Problems arise when these regions are excessively curved. In the upper thoracic region, hyperkyphosis is an excessively convex conformation and in the lumbar region a hyperlordosis conformation is an excessive concavity. An alternative problem arises when the natural convex thoracic and lumbar lordosis confirmations are reversed. A hypokyphotic thorax and lumbar kyphotic lumbar region are also problems. Thus, it is important the spine is not over-flexed or too straight but the natural kyphosis and lordosis is maintained.
While a lot of these incorrect spinal conformations arise from, among other things, degenerative diseases and trauma, bad posture is the leading everyday cause of spinal misalignments and reasons for reported back pain, limited mobility and comorbidities associated with movement impairments.
Bad posture has increased in incidence because of the increased hours spent sitting in chairs. This can be attributed to the increased workforce sitting down in front of computers. Diagnosis is made by observing the spine and measuring the angle of convexity and concavity. The thoracic vertebrae should have an angle ranging between 20 degrees to 45 degrees. Anything beyond 45 degrees, needs to be corrected. Similarly, an angle of maximally 45 should be observed in the lumbar region.
Luckily, the solution is very simple: correct the posture to maintain the normal curvature of the spine. However, that is a lot easier said than done. Just focusing on a screen and moving your head closure to the screen, automatically misaligns the natural conformation of your spine.
The issue no longer lies in finding a solution to the problem but more to adhering to the treatment. All information provided by doctors is of no use unless the patient adheres to the treatment.
We aim to create a non-invasive hardware gadget that can be attached to a T-shirt and worn on a day to day basis, continuously sampling data of the user's posture and storing it in an mobile application where it presents the times of good and bad posture as well as tips on correcting the posture. Furthermore, anytime the user misaligns their spine, the device notifies the user.
We chose to observe 2 locations of the user: the upper thoracic region as well as the lower lumbar region. This is because both of these are locations of commonly reported pain. Furthermore, it is important that both of these spinal regions are correct, for the overall posture to be correct, as well as maintaining the correct center of gravity and load bearing.
While a device attached directly to the user's back would be ideal, user comfort would be significantly reduced. Thus, an attachment to a wearable garment is more appealing to the user and can still achieve the same goal. The ideal T-shirt is tight (possibly a sports T-shirt), that conforms to the body's shape.
The build of the sensors was fairly straightforward. We used an Arduino UNO and 2 sensors: an accelerometer and a flex sensor. The accelerometer is for the thoracic region because it gives us data in 3 axis. This is important because the thoracic vertebrae have very limited movement, so movement in any axis should be analyzed and investigated. The positioning of the sensors is on thoracic vertebrae T2 between the two superior angles of the scapulae. The reason for this is so the movement of the cervical vertebrae (that are able to move forwards and backwards), don't interfere with our measurements. Furthermore, hyperkyphosis leads to the shoulders rolling forward and the scapular rising, so greatest angle changes would be observed at the T2 spinal region.
On the other hand, the flex sensor is ideal for the lumbar region, since the lumbar vertebrae can move in multiple directions naturally. Kyphotic lordosis or hyperlordosis would be impossible to measure with a one point accelerometer, which was ideal for the thoracic region, so the flex sensor only analyzes angle changes in one of the axis.
Our results from our sensors supported the researched data and are adjusted to notify the user at the incorrect angles. While the thoracic vertebrae should have an angle of 20, the point at which we are recording is registered as 90 degrees from horizontal 0. Therefore, we notify a 15 degree change, pre-emptively to prevent the unwanted 25 degree deviation of 45 degrees and more.