By: 29 July 2020
The development of a 3D-printed headset to promote recovery from spinal injury

Reva Jane discusses how 3D printing is transforming spinal cord injury recovery

While back pain and spinal injuries are usually associated with strenuous physical activities, long periods of inactivity can also lead to musculoskeletal damage. Figures from the Institute for Employment Studies has seen a rise in back issues due to the lockdown caused by the recent global pandemic [1].

This is why a post on ’30 Tips for Working From Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic’ [2] emphasises how important regular exercise is as it is imperative to maintaining overall health. For those with spine or back injuries, doctors recommend exercises that don’t put too much strain on your body. Swimming is a great option if you’ve got access to a pool. The water supports your bodyweight taking the strain off your back and spine. But with the recent restrictions due to lockdown, for many this just isn’t the case.

However, for more serious cases of spinal injury simply exercising will do very little to help alleviate the problem. In fact, spinal injuries can sometimes be totally debilitating with an excruciating road to recovery for those who suffer from these types of injuries. Luckily, recent technological advancements have made the road to recovery much easier. One piece of technology that has made a world of a difference is the recent developments with 3D printing.

Nina Petric-Gray [3], a PhD student at Scotland’s University of Glasgow has created a 3D printed headset that can aid in monitoring the brain’s electrical activity using electroencephalography of people who are recovering from spinal cord injuries. The main purpose of this device is to aid people in the process of recovery by helping them regain hand functions from their own homes. This device does this by sending electrical pulses to the person’s body, which stimulates hand movement from people that are paralyzed or suffer from serious central nervous system damage.

This device can be used to help patients recover from the comforts of their own home. This new device should go a long way in improving the rehab process for both patients and medical professionals as it gives them an alternative when it comes to rehabilitation. This also makes treatment more accessible as the device can be mass-produced thanks to the developments in 3D printing technology.

This is only one application of 3D printing in the field of technology. Given that the technology is fairly new, the possibilities for the use of 3D printing technology are endless. One particularly interesting application for this type of technology is bioprinting or the ability to 3D print objects that mimic organs for the sake of research.

Tech website Futurity’s post on ‘5 Ways 3D Printing Could Totally Change Medicine’ highlights how it could innovate and overhaul the entire field of medicine, because it allows manufacturers to produce everything from prosthetics to pills with pinpoint precision [4].

If you want to read up on more articles about how technology is improving the field of medicine, check out Sabyasachi Ghosh and Sharvari Rale’s feature on the progress of upper limb prosthetics [5].

Author info

Reva Jane is a freelance journalist who writes about healthcare and technology. His interests lie in cutting edge tech and how it can help people live longer and healthier lives.

Image: Unsplash