A new shoulder orthotic



According to the most recent data released by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, 10% of compensated occupational injuries in the province involve the shoulder.

According to the most recent data released by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, 10% of compensated occupational injuries in the province involve the shoulder. For muscle tears in particular, surgery is often required, followed by long and difficult rehabilitation. Patients must keep their arm completely immobilized—a position that is detrimental to the healthy surrounding muscles. More importantly, patients rarely follow their doctor's orders, thus drawing out the healing process. 

To speed up and facilitate rehab after shoulder surgery, Mickaël Begon, professor at École de kinésiologie et des sciences de l'activité physique at Université de Montréal and researcher at CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre, in collaboration with Médicus, Canada' leading provider of prosthetics and orthotics, are working to design an orthotic that protects the surgery site and allows at least some range of movement

To determine an optimal position for immobilization, the researcher and his team relied on electrodes and cameras to assess the electromyographic activity—the electrical activity produced by muscles—of a dozen shoulder and arm muscles as study participants carried out handling tasks. The experts then used the measurements to develop and adapt musculoskeletal models to simulate and ultimately understand the gestures that should and shouldn't be made after surgery. The models may also be used to recommend healthy postures for material handlers to prevent shoulder injuries. 

Professor Begon is currently working with orthopedists to test the prototype of a new orthotic that would enable post-operative patients suffering from a deep muscle tear to contract specific shoulder muscles without stretching them. Of course, the orthotic would not only benefit people suffering from an occupational injury. Indeed, the number of shoulder injuries is on the rise as the population ages. After the age of 60, the risk of tearing a shoulder muscle is 60%.