Short-Term Effects of a Passive Spinal Exoskeleton on Functional Performance, Discomfort and User Satisfaction in Patients with Low Back Pain
Low back pain (LBP) remains a major worldwide healthcare issue. Recently, spinal exoskeletons were proposed as a potentially useful solution for LBP prevention and vocational reintegration for people who perform heavy load lifting, repetitive movements or work in prolonged static postures. The purpose of this study was to investigate how patients with LBP respond to the novel passive SPEXOR exoskeleton regarding functional performance, discomfort and general user impression.
Fourteen patients, with low to moderate LBP (2-7 on a 0-10 scale), performed 12 functional tasks with and without the exoskeleton. In addition to objective performance measures, participants subjectively assessed the level of local low back discomfort, task difficulty and general discomfort on a 0-10 visual analogue scales.
The SPEXOR exoskeleton had favourable effects on performance and local discomfort during prolonged static forward bending. Minor reductions in performance were observed for sit-stand and ladder climbing tasks. The discomfort associated with the exoskeleton was generally low to moderate (median < 4), except for the 6-min walk test (median = 4.5), which is likely due to the weight of the device and obstruction of upper limb movement. The general impressions were mostly positive, with good adjustability, low interference with the movement and moderate support reported by the participants.
The SPEXOR exoskeleton is potentially useful for LBP prevention or management, however, further improvements are needed to provide higher levels support during heavy load lifting.