The ACA has successfully partnered with RMIT University to gain Commonwealth funding into the development of an industry-first ‘Sensor (Adjusting) Glove’. The first of its kind, the glove is envisioned to be an additional learning tool from which students can learn and better understand differing spinal adjusting techniques and the pressures, forces, and hand shapes that go along with these methods.
In 2021, the ACA committed just over $47,000 to the development of this new educational tool. The Commonwealth Government has matched the ACA dollar for dollar, paving the way forward for this exciting new research opportunity that has genuine clinical education applications.
Currently, students studying chiropractic learn how to perform spinal adjustments from expert teachers. Typically, students first perform spinal adjustments on mannequins before delivering adjustments on a person under the watchful guidance and instruction of a specialist teacher or technical expert. This method is also employed by experienced chiropractors when learning new adjustment methods and CPD techniques.
However, with the development of the new Sensor (Adjusting) Glove, students and experienced chiropractors will be able to learn and understand techniques firsthand and more accurately than ever before.
Currently, in its development phase, it is envisioned that it will be a lightweight glove that a student or chiropractor can wear when learning and understanding new methods of pressure, thrust, force, and shape when administering an adjustment on the spine and neck. The glove will contain rows of sensors that are embedded into the glove, which wirelessly connect to a computer or phone device through appropriate software.
Dr Barbara Polus, one of the five specialists across the project, alongside Dr Dein Vindigni, from RMIT University says the glove will be like ‘another skin’ and will essentially have the capacity to not only measure thrust, force, and speed – but the exact shape and angles of the hand, wrists, and fingers as well. “The shape of the hand is particularly important when adjusting and often when you deliver a thrust on the middle of the back, where you have your hand placed, is a perpendicular force. So, you are not necessarily using the whole hand, you are using a particular contact, and the hand has to assume the shape and so the glove will measure that as well.”
It is expected that the design of the glove will be integrated with a feedback system that will ultimately display a three-dimensional view of the hand, with colour-coded pressure information, to enable the user to obtain an immediate and direct understanding of their generated force parametres and hand actions.
Fellow researcher Dr Dein Vindigni says the Spinal (Adjusting) Glove is not only the first of its kind but a tool that will allow students and practitioners to understand how to deliver optimal range forces and safe and effective adjustments in real-time.
“The idea behind this tool is that we help our students and our clinicians and staff to understand how to deliver optimal range forces and safe and effective adjustments: that’s the goal. This understanding mostly comes from the experience students have in their undergraduate training, where we train them to make sure they are sensitive to the age range of the patient if they are young, old, or fragile. However, we still do not quite know, what is ‘optimal’? And is that ‘optimal’ the same for everybody? Probably not, because a younger person or an older person or a sports person are likely to need different amounts of speed and pressure.”
Dr Polus believes the Sensor (Adjusting) Glove will also allow chiropractors to build trust with their patients, as chiropractors could have the gloves in their clinics, so during an appointment with a patient, the chiropractor refers to the glove and shows on a computer screen how an objective adjustment works.
The chiropractor can then physically demonstrate to the patient that the force the chiropractor will use, is the same as the force that is safely recommended. Thus, the glove can be used as an educational tool to allow chiropractors to physically show their patients that their approach is not only appropriately tailored to the patient’s condition, but to their comfort level as well. In the long run, this has the capacity to establish both patient confidence and trust:
“It allows for us to improve the image of the chiropractor and the profession – it helps us to build trust. Chiropractors can have these gloves in their clinics, so the public can better understand what we do, and exactly how adjusting procedures work in a scientific way. We can effectively show patients and more broadly the public, the reproducibility of forces that are involved. To have the ability to actually demonstrate how these adjustments can be safe and effective across a patient’s life span is very exciting!” says Dr Polus.
One of the biggest aims of this project is to also provide an avenue for current practitioners to better understand their own techniques and fine-tune their own force or intensity of thrust if necessary. “It is interesting, even the most experienced practitioners will think my goodness, I have been pushing above that range, or below that range for all these years and I could have got the same effect, if I just had turned the volume down on my intensity or thrust or simply increased the speed. We can all learn from it…it is like looking in a mirror. For all these years I have been doing this, but if I was to fine-tune it, it would be better.”
Dr Vindigni stresses that the Sensor (Adjusting) Glove will not be a replacement for hands-on learning or therapy, but to ‘value add’ to current learning practices and allow students to finesse and refine their adjustments to better deliver reproducible, safe, and effective judgments.
Currently, the goal for the RMIT University research team is to develop a prototype this year, before testing it to ensure the measurements the glove is making are both accurate and calibrated. This will also involve lab-based work to conduct extensive validity and reliability studies to ensure consistency. Notably, the project is now establishing a unique dialogue between engineers in the School of Engineering at RMIT University as well as chiropractic.
Dr Vindigni says it is also important to note that a huge part of this process will also include getting the input of experienced chiropractors to provide their own calibrations and optimal force ranges as well, so they can ensure the glove meets the gold standard of adjustment ranges. “Once we know it’s valid and chiropractors can put on the glove and perform repeat adjustments, we can start to build a database of optimal parametres…we have to keep the end-user involved as soon as possible and invite the profession to be partners in this. It needs to have everybody’s expertise along the journey.”
Dr Polus’ dream is that from day one, students will have access to Sensor (Adjusting) Gloves in every classroom from their first lesson: “I have this dream that from day one – all the students will have a glove – that they all get a practical understanding of how to develop safe and effective adjustment techniques right from the beginning.”
There is no doubt that this new technology has the capacity to completely revolutionise the way chiropractic techniques are learned and understood in the profession.
The Sensor (Adjusting) Glove will go a long way in value-adding and enabling both chiropractic training institutions and current professionals to have an ‘experiential’ learning tool like no other. Students will be able to fine-tune and finesse their skills in and after class without the presence of a teacher and current professionals will have a new tool to communicate and safely demonstrate treatments to patients.
The ACA would like to personally thank Dr Dein Vindigni, Associate Professor Barbara Polus, Professor Dinesh Kumar, Susan Feitoza and Quoc Ngo for their work on this project thus far, and we look forward to furthering developments of this exciting new research.