It’s bad enough sitting through the weeks of agony in a cast while your broken limb slowly heals. The itching, the sweat, the inability to sleep in a normal position – or shower – makes it unbearable. Worse still is the period of healing after the cast is removed: only routine sessions of physiotherapy can help you regain strength in the limp muscles.
But do the muscles have to atrophy when the bones are healing? An Israeli company believes it has the ultimate solution to keep your muscles strong, even when you are immobilised, and your bones broken. The six-year-old company StimuHeal has invented an electrical stimulation device – the MyoSpare – that sits under your cast, stimulating your muscles to stay strong, even when your biggest workout is switching the channels on the remote control.
A head start on healing
“The initial thought behind the system was to enable patients with orthopedic injuries to efficiently use the immobilization period to reduce cast-induced atrophy,” says Shlomi Cohen, the CEO of StimuHeal.
Musculoskeletal injuries, such as damage to bones, joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons are the most common causes for patient visits to the ER and doctor’s office, and something StimuHeal can help remedy.
“The problem after bone injury is that most patients are not active,” says Cohen. “Even though doctors are recommending them to be active, they aren’t. Only after the cast is removed – only then do they start physical therapy.”
Therapy with MyoSpare, however, can start immediately after surgical or medical interventions.
Now available in Europe and Israel, MyoSpare takes advantage of the downtime period when the adult or senior body is inactive and healing from an injury.
Using existing equipment on the market, StimuHeal identified the technical and clinical limitations of activating the muscles underneath casts using Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES), a well-recognized tool in the American healthcare system.
If electrodes were to be inserted under the cast, the company recognized, prolonged sweating would be a problem. They also had to develop the perfect stimulation regime so the lactic acid and CO2 wouldn’t build up in the muscles, causing pain and discomfort. StimuHeal solved this by developing a microprocessor that calculates a cycle for the muscles to rest.
Developed by experts in physical therapy
Not only will the MyoSpare device cut down on physiotherapy costs, it will radically help people return to their former selves after a serious debilitating injury. Other devices exist on the market to aid in muscle stimulation, but the MyoSpare is the only one developed for use under a cast when the body is healing, the company says.
To stay competitive, StimuHeal hopes to be able to sell MyoSpare in the United States for about $300, once it gets the FDA seal of approval. This should happen sometime in the next year.
To meet regulatory approvals in Israel and in Europe, MyoSpare has been tested on hundreds of patients at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.
The five-person company based in Herzylia, outside of Tel Aviv, is advised by specialists in the field and includes Prof. Meir Libergal, from the Hebrew University Medical School who is chairman of the Orthopedic Surgery Department at the Hadassah Medical Center; and Doron Zamir, the deputy principal from the School of Physical Therapy affiliated with Tel Aviv University.