Researchers have developed a pair of 'smart socks' that physiotherapists can use to ensure their patients are doing their exercises and rehabilitation correctly. Picture: Ian Currie
Researchers have developed a pair of 'smart socks' that physiotherapists can use to ensure their patients are doing their exercises and rehabilitation correctly. Picture: Ian Currie

Could these socks save your life?

PHYSIOTHERAPISTS may soon be able to treat remote patients with a new form of wearable technology dubbed "smart socks".

Developed by University of Melbourne PhD candidate Deepti Aggarwal, the socks send information on weight distribution, foot orientation and range of movement to physiotherapists who treat patients through video consultations. "Lower limb movements are difficult to understand over video, the movements are so subtle," said the computer science student, who submitted her thesis last week.

The smart socks were trialled with three patients and a physiotherapist at the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, between February and June 2017 and they were an instant hit.

"When I was trialling these socks, the patients wanted to take the socks home and physiotherapists wanted to use them with other patients," Ms Aggarwal told AAP.

Poppy Lange who has chronic pain condition in one of her knees is pictured wearing 'smart socks' at the Royal Children's Hospital. Picture: Ian Currie
Poppy Lange who has chronic pain condition in one of her knees is pictured wearing 'smart socks' at the Royal Children's Hospital. Picture: Ian Currie

Three sensors are embedded in the socks that patients wear while performing exercises as a web-interface displays the data in real time for physiotherapists.

The socks, which cost $300 to make, are not available for sale. But Ms Aggarwal has called on wearable technology companies to give her a call and consider mass producing them, thereby reducing the price.

"My hope is that someone takes this system and takes it to the market," she said.

"There are many more dimensions we can explore - it can be beneficial for foot injuries, even for elderly people." The technology could also be used for pregnant women who can't regularly travel for face-to-face care, she said.

"(It's) not a replacement for face-to-face consultations, rather they're the next best solution to support patients in critical situations such as those with severe pain and mobility issues."



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