Using watch-like devices to record your movements – how tracking turns everyday activities into training opportunities!

June 29, 2018

If you’ve recently suffered a stroke, you know how important it is to stay active. Anyone who has some problems with their arm function needs to exercise more. The only way to improve is to train. But sometimes that’s easier said than done.

Training an arm impairment can be downright discouraging at times. And the only way to get better is to be diligent. So, how can we help ourselves train better?

More training leads to better function

A considerable part of stroke recovery is learning how to reuse an affected arm. One way to engage yourself is to wear sensors that monitor your activity, specifically, arm sensors that record the number and intensity of movements. They can also log whether the actions were intentional or not. Sensors aren’t perfect, and can sometimes overestimate the actual amount you’re using your arm. But, using this information to compare activity with the unaffected arm is helpful.

Sensors to help you improve activity

Recently, researchers proposed a way to help stroke patients with their recovery by wearing two sensors. They suggested patients wear one on the affected arm and the other on the unaffected arm. When the system detects that the patient is favoring the healthy arm, it vibrates and also visually alerts them. These alerts encourage patients to use the affected arm. These sensors can help incorporate therapy into everyday life!

Rather than isolating training sessions to specific times, your training becomes more of a way of living. These sensors turn every moment into an opportunity. But how can we handle all the information coming from these little devices? Researchers looked for a way to help solve this problem.

A technology to monitor how you’re doing

Naturally, scientists developed an algorithm for a solution to handling so much information. They presented this to both stroke survivors and occupational therapists. In their evaluation of the algorithm’s effectiveness, they recruited 20 stroke patients and 10 healthy subjects for comparison. All participants were asked to perform movements that resembled daily activities. These actions might include drinking from a can, turning a key in a lock, picking up a pen and putting it back, and going up and down the stairs. The goal was to see if the algorithm could tell when a motion was intended and when it was not.

Results are looking good so far!

Researchers proved with their algorithm that sensors could detect intended movements performed in daily activities with a precision of 87%. It could also figure out if there were any abnormal or incorrect movements with an accuracy of 84%.

So what do people think? A recent survey found that 91.7% of occupational therapists were willing to use this system in their clinical practice. Another study found that 88.2% of stroke patients would use it if their therapist recommended it.

Interested in getting the device for yourself? Unfortunately, the program isn’t out on the market yet. But stay tuned because it’s likely to make an appearance soon!

The lead author of this study was Sunghoon I. Lee, the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, Massachusetts.


What you can do with this information

Editorial note:

Using sensors that give feedback can help stroke patients turn everyday activities into training.

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