Scoliosis is sideways curving of the spine that effects 2-3% of the population, or about 7 million people in the U.S., according to the National Scoliosis Foundation. The most common form is called idiopathic scoliosis and usually becomes apparent between ages 10-15; girls more commonly have scoliosis that is pronounced enough to require treatment. Patients with the most severe curvature are often treated with surgery, but when people are still growing, hard braces are often prescribed.
The braces pressure the bone structure to resist further curving and possibly improve alignment. Severe curvature can be very painful, interfere with breathing, and threaten self-esteem. The braces, which are often worn for 2-4 years, are no fun and can be uncomfortable if worn tightly enough to make a difference.
Wellinks, Inc. is developing a smart strap called CINCH that can be used with hard braces prescribed for patients with scoliosis. CINCH is a belt with a buckle with built-in sensors that track how tight and how long the brace is worn. Combined with a smartphone app, CINCH is used by patients, parents, and healthcare professionals to set and measure progress, awarding scores for relative compliance with the recommended settings.
Wellinks does not intend to manufacture braces, but rather to sell CINCH smart straps to existing brace makers and to physicians. Most braces come with Velcro straps which physicians could replace with CINCH smart straps. Compliance is a major factor in the success of hard braces for treating scoliosis; the best results come from wearing a properly tightened brace as long as possible. Wellinks is also working with parent and health groups to promote awareness that a smart alternative to regular straps can help with compliance and long-term results.