The Lumbar Belt: an Interactive Revalidation Tool for Low Back Pain Patients

Problem statement:

Chronic low back pain (CLBP) can be defined as low back pain (LBP) lasting 12 weeks or more. It is one of the most common symptoms prompting adults to seek health care and is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work. It is further one of the most frequent reasons for persistent disability and lost work days.

Many different rehabilitation programs of unclear efficacy are currently in use. Chronic low back pain is resistant to treatment, and patients are often referred for interdisciplinary treatment. This rehabilitation is dominated by face to face contact with different specialists to follow up the training, assisted by different means to support the patient in his or her self management. These supports are mostly paper based, functional and difficult to integrate in daily life.

The current applied assessment and treatment has several limitations. The screening methods are often inaccurate, not standardized and are time consuming for both the patient and the physician/therapist. The interdisciplinary decision making process is often a very time consuming process. Treatment is often restricted to a limited amount of sessions while integration in daily life often remains a problem. The evaluation of treatment takes place during the therapeutic sessions, while a more continuous monitoring of pain and functional outcome is really crucial. Long term follow-up is almost always a problem.

When analyzing telemonitoring applications that have been used within a CLBP population, most of the times when assessing physical activity, pedometers or accelerometers have been used. Although these are valuable measurement techniques in order to quantify gross motor activity (amount of sitting, walking, sleeping, ...) it would be worthwhile taking a look at the segmental activity of that part of the spine that is crucial to CLBP patients: the lumbar vertebrae.


The goal of this master thesis is to develop a lumbar belt capable of measuring movements of the lower back. To this end, several sensors will have to be placed closely and accurately together while not hampering the patient's movements.

In a first phase, existing sensor modules would be used to perform initial measurements and supply testing data. This data should be analyzed in order to distinguish between correctly and wrongly executed exercises. A study will have to be performed to determine the required number and type of sensors to allow this detection to be performed reliably and correctly. Below a picture is shown with the existing sensor platform in action.

The second phase consists of an electronic design of the lumbar belt. As patient comfort is highly appreciated, flexible substrates will be used, which in turn will result in some design restrictions. The design will incorporate the number and type of sensors determined in the first phase complemented with the necessary communication and readout circuitry. This design could then be used on actual patients for final validation of the results.

This master thesis will be implemented in close cooperation with the department of revalidation and kinesitherapy of the Ghent University Hospital.


Ardoyen (CMST)