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These 'smart socks' help determine treatment for back pain

Palarum smart socks.jpg
Mayfield Brain & Spine and Palarum
Before a spinal cord stimulator is implanted, doctors want to know if it will work on the patient. So before the operation they try out a temporary one to see what kind of difference it will make based on readings from computerized socks.

Smart socks are playing a key role in helping to alleviate back pain. Palarum, the maker of the socks, is partnering with Mayfield Brain & Spine to use key measurements like gait speed and weight distribution to determine if various treatments will be successful for patients.

Fairfield's Carol Gore suffered from chronic back pain for two years, going through a long list of medication and treatments, before finding relief from spinal cord stimulation.

It was the smart socks that convinced Mayfield Physical Therapist Luke Iding the stimulation would work on Gore.

"There's three sensors in the bottom of the sock. What we're looking at when a patient has them on is, I'm making sure one sensor is positioned over the base of the first toe. The same for the little toe. And then one sensor at the heel for a total of three sensors," Iding explains. "On the side of the socks the battery connects and that is what allows us to connect to the iPad via Bluetooth to collect data in real time."

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The first time he collected data on balance and walking with Gore it was before any treatment or trial. The second time it was with a temporary spinal cord stimulator.

The sock data determined a permanent implant would help Gore and that's what she did.


"The results were just magical," says Gore. "It was unbelievable how much pain was relieved."

She is now back to cleaning the house, camping and kayaking.

The Mayfield Education & Research Foundation is expanding its research program to study ways to help patients relieve back and leg pain. And Palarum is looking for other ways its socks can help.

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Marc Roderick is Palarum's vice president of operations. "We're just starting to explore additional uses with Mayfield here as a jump-off on all the potentials we can do on assessing patients and improving outcomes."

Roderick calls it a "Pandora's Box of opportunity." Right now, insurance doesn't pay for the smart socks but Palarum hopes it will in the future.

Palarum smart socks 2.jpg
Palarum and Mayfield Brain & Spine
Computer chips communicate via Bluetooth to give physical therapist needed data.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.