Smart Underwear Proven to Prevent Back Stress with just a Tap

Combining science of biomechanics and advances in wearable tech.


There are many commercial products available in the market that promise to ease the back pain. But most of them hold three problems: unproven, unworkable or just plain unattractive. So, to find a solution over it, a team of Vanderbilt University engineers combines both the science of biomechanics and advances in wearable tech.

Engineers have developed a smart underwear to offload stress on the lower back. It is outlined with the goal that clients draw in it just when they require it.

Originally, this smart underwear consisted of two fabric sections, made of nylon canvas, Lycra, polyester, and other materials, for the chest and legs. All sections are connected via sturdy straps across the middle back, with natural rubber pieces at the lower back and glutes.

A simple double tap to the shirt engages the straps. When the task is complete, another double tap releases the straps so the user can sit down, and the device feels and behaves like normal clothes.

Engineers also created an app so that users can control the device. The users just need to tap their phones to engage the smart clothing wirelessly via Bluetooth.

Almost all adults will experience low back pain in their lifetimes. Karl Zelik, the designer of the project, also experienced the same while lifting his toddler son, which he said got him thinking about wearable tech solutions.

He said, “I’m sick of Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne being the only ones with performance-boosting super suits. We, the masses, want our own. The difference is that I’m not fighting crime. I’m fighting the odds that I’ll strain my back this week trying to lift my 2-year-old.”

Eight subjects tried the gadget, inclining forward and lifting 25-pound and 55-pound weights while holding their position at 30, 60, and 90 degrees. By using motion capture, force plates, and electromyography, the device can reduce activity in the lower back extensor muscles by an average of 15 to 45 percent for each task.

Dr. Aaron Yang, who specializes in nonsurgical treatment of the back and neck at Vanderbilt University Medical Center said, “People are often trying to capitalize on a huge societal problem with devices that are unproven or unviable. This concept of smart underwear 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.”

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