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FOTO Rehab Outcomes Blog

Wearable Technology for Upper Extremities

 I predict rehabilitation professionals will increase their use of wearable technologies during the rehabilitation process.  Firstly, the immediate feedback to the patient is priceless when it comes to changing movement patterns and monitoring accuracy of performance. Secondly, as wearables become more and more affordable and embedded in garments, the data can be streamed to clinicians to monitor performance from afar. I'm not sure if adherence to home exercise programs would be improved, but it seems that consistent and accurate performance would improve movement patterns.

Here's a quick view of the abstract. 


Interactive wearable systems for upper body rehabilitation: a systematic review.




The development of interactive rehabilitation technologies which rely on wearable-sensing for upper body rehabilitation is attracting increasing research interest. This paper reviews related research with the aim: 1) To inventory and classify interactive wearable systems for movement and posture monitoring during upper body rehabilitation, regarding the sensing technology, system measurements and feedback conditions; 2) To gauge the wearability of the wearable systems; 3) To inventory the availability of clinical evidence supporting the effectiveness of related technologies.


A systematic literature search was conducted in the following search engines: PubMed, ACM, Scopus and IEEE (January 2010-April 2016).


Forty-five papers were included and discussed in a new cuboid taxonomy which consists of 3 dimensions: sensing technology, feedback modalities and system measurements. Wearable sensor systems were developed for persons in: 1) Neuro-rehabilitation: stroke (n = 21), spinal cord injury (n = 1), cerebral palsy (n = 2), Alzheimer (n = 1); 2) Musculoskeletal impairment: ligament rehabilitation (n = 1), arthritis (n = 1), frozen shoulder (n = 1), bones trauma (n = 1); 3) Others: chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (n = 1), chronic pain rehabilitation (n = 1) and other general rehabilitation (n = 14). Accelerometers and inertial measurement units (IMU) are the most frequently used technologies (84% of the papers). They are mostly used in multiple sensor configurations to measure upper limb kinematics and/or trunk posture. Sensors are placed mostly on the trunk, upper arm, the forearm, the wrist, and the finger. Typically sensors are attachable rather than embedded in wearable devices and garments; although studies that embed and integrate sensors are increasing in the last 4 years. 16 studies applied knowledge of result (KR) feedback, 14 studies applied knowledge of performance (KP) feedback and 15 studies applied both in various modalities. 16 studies have conducted their evaluation with patients and reported usability tests, while only three of them conducted clinical trials including one randomized clinical trial.


This review has shown that wearable systems are used mostly for the monitoring and provision of feedback on posture and upper extremity movements in stroke rehabilitation. The results indicated that accelerometers and IMUs are the most frequently used sensors, in most cases attached to the body through ad hoc contraptions for the purpose of improving range of motion and movement performance during upper body rehabilitation. Systems featuring sensors embedded in wearable appliances or garments are only beginning to emerge. Similarly, clinical evaluations are scarce and are further needed to provide evidence on effectiveness and pave the path towards implementation in clinical settings.

2017 Mar 11;14(1):20. doi: 10.1186/s12984-017-0229-y.