New Fitness Wearable and App Combination May Be Able to Decrease Lower Back Pain


Fitness apps with a wearable component are popular at the moment, most targeting general movement or weight loss. But the Valedo device, showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show held earlier this month in Las Vegas, NV, has a more specific goal: reducing lower back pain.

“There is a medical layer and a gaming layer,” Robert MacKenzie, products manager for Valedo, told the AFP news agency. “This is actually a medical product for exercise therapy.”

Back pain is a widespread and consistent concern in the United States, with about 31 million Americans suffering from lower back pain at any given time, according to the American Chiropractic Association. Lower back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and back pain in general is the leading cause of disability among Americans younger than 45.

Valedo, developed by Hocoma, works using two sensors that attach to the chest and lower back using medical tape. These sensors detect “micro movements” as the wearer plays interactive games on an iPhone or iPad and transmit data to the program, which then guides the users through exercises intended to increase movement in the spine and strengthen muscles deep in the back.

The product has only just been launched in the U.S., but has been available in Switzerland since July. MacKenzie said that according to results from users there, three 10- or 15-minute sessions per week for two weeks can result in a notable decrease in pain. The exercises used in the games, according to the company, were developed by physical therapists.

So far, it looks as if the app can appeal to people suffering from back pain of varying severities.

“The app looks like one of those casual games where you get 3 stars for beating a level, but behind the scenes there are 45 exercises to do divided by muscle group and orientation — you can do them laying [sic] down, sitting, and standing, which means you can take it easy to begin with if your pain is really bad,” TechCrunch commented in its Jan. 4 review of fitness-focuses wearables at CES.

For now, Valedo is compatible with the iPhone 5 and 6, the iPad 3 and later versions, and the iPad mini, and sells for $359. The company says versions will be released for Android and Windows devices later this year.

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