Low cost, consumer wireless muscle stimulator targets low back pain sufferers

Technology News |
By eeNews Europe

Low back pain is both one of the most common forms of pain people experience in the developed world and reasons for visiting a doctor. A 2004 study found close to 3 in 10 of the adult population in the U.S, for example, reported experiencing low back pain, and for around half of them – totaling 40.5 million people – the symptoms were severe enough to seek professional medical help. The annual cost of treating back pain in the U.S. in 2004 was estimated to be almost $200 billion.

In operation the low cost WiTouch – which retails for $149 – comprises a thin (18 x 191 x 90 mm), lightweight (136g) pad that the user attaches to their lower back using replaceable adhesive gel pads whenever they experience back pain. A completely automatic 30-minute treatment using a patented TENS waveform (see below) is then activated via a small remote control that also allows the user to increase or decrease the treatment intensity from the remote.

The device is small enough to be worn discretely under clothing (so can be used anywhere – including at work or when travelling), and contour to the user’s back to maintain comfort and full surface contact.

In operation a Nordic nRF24LE1 located in the remote communicates with a sister nRF24LE1 in the WiTouch device. The use of an ultra low power Nordic nRF24LE1 in the remote allows the remote to operate from a regular CR2032 coin cell (‘watch’) battery for up to one year before needing replacement, while advanced interference avoidance techniques allow the WiTouch to communicate with its remote control reliably even in hostile 2.4 GHz operating environments that include, for example, Bluetooth wireless technology and Wi-Fi emitters in the vicinity. The WiTouch pad itself can deliver over 150 30-minute treatments from a single pair of regular AAA batteries.

TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) is a non-invasive, drug-free method of controlling pain by the transmission of electrical stimulation to the body’s nerve or muscle fibers through the skin. Pain relief or suppression in TENS can be achieved via one of two clinical theories: one that suppresses the transmission of pain in nerves using high frequencies above 80 Hz (called Gate Control Theory); and one that increases the discharge of the body’s endorphins, which reduces the sensitivity to pain in the central nervous system while prolonging pain relief after treatment using low frequencies below 10 Hz (called Opiate Release Theory). The Hollywog WiTouch’s exclusive waveform incorporates both of these clinical TENS theories to provide pain relief via an exclusive 3-stage waveform developed specifically for pain relief.

 Hagy continues: "And we selected Nordic wireless technology because we needed to aggressively target a consumer price point for the end product, and required a wireless solution for the remote control that would give us the reliability and performance assurance you need in any consumer self-treatment device, while consuming very little power."
"Products like the WiTouch empower consumers to take control of their own health and wellbeing on a mass-market scale," concludes Geir Langeland, Nordic Semiconductor’s Director of Sales & Marketing, "and gives those suffering from low back pain a brand new option for improving their quality of life."

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