Computerized Instrument Assesses Arthritis and Joint Pain

March 23, 2011

Researchers have developed a computerized instrument to assess RA and joint pain in patients.

Researchers have developed a new assessment and exercise tool aimed towards helping patients suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), it has been reported.

The experiment is a part of a “finger-hand” study that is being performed by Dr. Tony Szturm and Dr. Barbara Shay of the University of Manitoba’s School of Medical Rehabilitation in Canada; Master’s students Cynthia Swarnalatha and Shiva Shrestha are also aiding the project. The study has resulted in the trial operations of a computerized experimental instrument.

The exercise tool is actually more like a computer game; a sensor is placed on an everyday household object, such as a mug or tweezers, and the computer scans and inputs data that is taken from how the volunteers—who must be between the ages of thirty and sixty and have some sort of joint pain in their fingers/hands due to arthritis or past hand injuries—operate the object and its functionality.

"In two minutes, we can monitor your movement and grade levels of pain or discomfort,” said Szturm. “We can then create a profile from that information."

Irene Smolik, a fifty-seven year-old previous volunteer, reported that the study was an eye-opener to how important the hands are to everyday life.

"You take your hands for granted," said Smolik. "I was having pain and I couldn’t perform certain movements. The study made me aware of how much I use my hands."

While Smolik says that the exercise was, at first, “difficult and tiring,” it became “relaxing and fun because you’re using so many different household objects. The main thing for me is to raise awareness. Also, this research could be applied in your home, which makes it simple and cost-effective."

According to Swarnalatha, the long-term purpose of the study is to "deliver a high quality client-specific hand exercise program through telerehabilitation [the delivery of rehabilitation services via telecommunications networks and the Internet] and to study its effects on changes in impairment and activity limitation."

1.3 million people in the United States suffer from RA, and if this program is launched electronically to the public on the internet, which Szturn reports is the ultimate goal, patients in the US could benefit from the exercises built into the program as well as a solid foundation of support for their disease.