The future of precise personalized robotic physiotherapy

An innovation that automates the diagnosis and treatment of chronic back pain could bring benefits to millions of patients, increase work productivity, and provide therapists with a time-saving tool.

Back pain, a musculoskeletal disorder, is the leading cause of disability worldwide. It is also the most common reason that people visit their doctor and take time off work.

Even though back pain is extremely common, there are no established guidelines or protocols when it comes to diagnosis, says ADAMO Robot project coordinator Carlos Jimenez, managing director at Adamo Robot in Spain.

Diagnosis also tends to be subjective, and the success of treatments, which often involve massage sessions, depends a lot on the quality of the therapist.

Automated back therapy

The researchers are currently working towards developing a fully autonomous robot, capable of conducting independent sessions without a physical intervention of a physiotherapist.

"To this end, the EU (European Union) funded project has enabled us to define our technological plan", explains Jimenez. We have also been able to optimize the mechanical design and prepare for mass production. From a technical point of view, the temperature of the compressed air has been adjusted to make patients feel more comfortable.

"The project also helped the firm to understand which markets are open to adoption. We performed a study to understand the cost of physiotherapy, the availability of physiotherapists as well as whether there were objections towards using our technology", notes Jimenez. Feedback from patients and physiotherapists has been very positive. Patients reported that the treatment was unexpectedly painless. The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an increased need to treat people coming out of intensive care units (ICUs).