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Source: NEC Corporation
NEC and Tokyo Medical and Dental University use AI to assist self-care for chronic lower back pain
- Smartphones used to quickly estimate causes and to recommend customized exercises -

TOKYO, Mar 21, 2024 - (JCN Newswire) - NEC Corporation (TSE: 6701) and Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) have developed a technology to support self-care for chronic non-specific lower back pain (CLBP) by using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze image and interview data taken with smart devices. This will enable individuals with chronic back pain to easily check their lower back condition and to see possible causes and recommendations for customized exercises, regardless of the time or location.

AI Technology to Support Self-Care for CLBP

Background

According to a study conducted by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in 2022, lower back pain is the leading subjective symptom of illness or injury in Japan for both men and women. Lower back pain often becomes chronic and is a major health problem that significantly impairs life functions, and at the same time, it may also cause problems such as increased social security costs for medical and nursing care benefits. However, in order to improve the symptoms of CLBP, it is necessary to visit the clinic several times a month continuously, and many people are unable to receive adequate services due to distance and time constraints.As the population continues to age, there are high expectations for technology to encourage appropriate exercises for improving symptoms and preventing the worsening or recurrence of CLBP.

Features of the technology

This technology was developed based on NEC's state-of-the-art AI, including 2D/3D human pose estimation technology and abductive reasoning technology, as well as TMDU's medical knowledge. Based on images of a user taken with a smart device, the technology automatically estimates the human skeletal pose structure, evaluates the condition of each body part, estimates the cause of CLBP, and suggests an exercise program tailored to the symptoms.Features of the technology are as follows:

1. Highly accurate human pose estimation even for images taken from various angles

When an individual uses a smartphone or tablet device to take images of themself, the images are normally taken from various angles. As a result, conventional technologies using images may estimate distorted skeletal structure depending on the shooting angles, resulting in a loss of accuracy.To overcome this issue, NEC developed a 2D/3D human pose estimation technology that estimates skeletal structure while considering the shooting angles. This enables highly accurate human pose estimation, even for images taken from various angles.

2. Evaluate the condition of each body part with high precision from images

In order to find the cause of CLBP, physical therapists and other specialists observe each movement, such as forward bending, backward bending, and rotation, and evaluate the condition of each body part, such as insufficient, moderate, or excessive joint flexion, based on the relationship between body parts, such as the angle between the pelvis and thighs, and the relationship between body parts and back shape. Conventional technology evaluates the condition of each body part by calculating the relationship between body parts based on the human skeletal information estimated from images. However, the accuracy of the condition evaluation is limited because it does not take into account the relationship between the body parts and the shape of the back.NEC has developed a technology to precisely estimate the shape of the back from images, and by taking into account the relationship between body parts and back shape, it is now possible to evaluate the condition of each body part with the same high accuracy as an expert.

3. Rapidly estimate the cause of CLBP

In order to find the cause of CLBP, it is necessary to exhaustively search for physical issues from a kinematic perspective that could be the cause, such as "excessive lumbar flexion," based on information on each individual's attributes, such as age, gender and lifestyle, and observable information such as symptoms. However, this generates a huge number of combinations, and conventional inference techniques require several hours to search for the cause.NEC has developed a proprietary abductive reasoning technology using a Satisfiability Assessment Problem (SAT) solver. This enables rapid estimation of the major causes of chronic low back pain within an average of 10 seconds, based on image and interview data. In addition, based on TMDU’s medical knowledge, a knowledge base has been created that includes the condition of each body part, interview data, and the causes of chronic back pain, enabling highly accurate and comprehensive estimation of the causes of an individual’s chronic back pain.After the above 1-3, an exercise program suitable for improving CLBP is presented on a user’s device according to the presumed cause of the pain. Since exercise programs are provided by video, individuals with CLBP can perform the exercise program at home by themselves.

Future developments

NEC and TMDU aim to verify the effectiveness of this technology through testing at an NEC care center in Tokyo and other facilities during fiscal 2024. In the future, NEC and TMDU plan to expand the scope of the application of this technology from CLBP to neck and shoulder disorders.

About NEC Corporation

NEC Corporation has established itself as a leader in the integration of IT and network technologies while promoting the brand statement of “Orchestrating a brighter world.” NEC enables businesses and communities to adapt to rapid changes taking place in both society and the market as it provides for the social values of safety, security, fairness and efficiency to promote a more sustainable world where everyone has the chance to reach their full potential. For more information, visit NEC at https://www.nec.com.

About Tokyo Medical and Dental University

Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) is Japan’s only comprehensive medical university and graduate school, and has provided advanced medical treatment through a fusion of the medical and dental fields and worked to cultivate "professionals with knowledge and humanity." TMDU contributes to human health and the well-being of society by fostering outstanding healthcare professionals with a humane and global outlook.




Topic: Press release summary
Source: NEC Corporation

Sectors: MedTech
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