Try the word Elektrodress! Although it may not sound like the most comfortable garment in the world, it is in fact a piece of clothing that improves the quality of life for many who suffer from neurological disorders. Elektrodress, which is currently being released on the market by the company Inerventions, has been developed in collaboration with Smart Textiles.

It is a well-known fact that electrical stimulation can affect muscle activity. This phenomenon is for example used in treatments of patients suffering from disorders with spastic symptoms, which may be explained as involuntary rapid muscle contractions due to dysfunctions in the central nervous system.

Such electrical stimulation of the muscles has mostly been administered using two loose electrodes for each muscle. The cords hang freely and because patients often experience spastic symptoms for many muscles simultaneously, the treatment may require the use of quite a few electrodes and cords at the same time. Elektrodress consists of a pair of trousers and a shirt and thus works for the entire body, without any loose cords.

Elektrodress is made in an ordinary swim suit fabric which has conductive textile materials integrated into it. Inside the garment, electrodes have been fastened in suitable places that will have them come in contact with the patient’s body. On the outside of the garment, level with the patient’s stomach, a box holding the batteries have been fastened. A therapist positions the electrodes in strategic places on the inside of the Elektrodress and then programmes the garment so that all the user has to do to activate the dress is press the play button on the battery box.

– The idea is for the patient to use this assistive device for about an hour every day, says Emma Sjöberg, Vice President of Inerventions.

Emma Sjöberg

While the programme runs, the patient is free to do whatever he or she pleases, although preferably practising skills he or she wants to improve. One advantage is that patients are able to use Elektrodress at home and that they do not have to undergo other treatments, which are often intrusive. The patient generally experiences a relaxing effect almost at once which normally lasts for anything between one and three days. It is the muscle opposite to the muscle affected by spasticity that is stimulated. This causes it to contract, which automatically makes the spastic muscle to relax.
– If you for example have spasms in your biceps, stimulating the opposing muscles, the triceps, would counteract the spasms. This is because opposing muscles cannot be contracted simultaneously.

Owing to this, many patients experience less stiffness and are allowed longre periods of rest from their spasticity when using the Elektrodress.

The President of Inerventions, chiropractor Fredrik Lundqvist, has many years’ experience of working with children and adults suffering from neurological disabilities. Elektrodress is his idea and together with some of the researchers at Smart Textiles, the company has succeeded in developing the dress.
– The collaboration extends to development work and material testing. Elektrodress should fit tightly to the user’s body and be elastic. The patient is to be able to use it without risking ill health and the dress is to be washable. We have received a greta deal of help from Smart Textiles regarding the construction of an appropriate material and we continue our work together.

Fernando Seoane and Javier Ferraria are the researchers at Smart Textiles who have worked most with the Elektrodress.
– Smart Textiles has also helped us finance the project, Emma Sjöberg says. Further more, we’ve had the pleasure to be introduced to the vast network of manufacturers kept by Smart Textiles. It is important to find someone with exactly the right expertise.

As has mentioned before, Elektrodress is currently being introduced on the market and Inerventions are looking for doctors and physiotherapists who wants to help perform more extensive studies of the effects of the assistive device.
– We’ve already carried out some tests with Elektrodress on human patients and seen the positive effect on their lives. It’s amazing! Elektrodress is a medical product and our long-term goal is to have it introduced into the range of assistive devices offered by the county councils. According to our calculations, there are at least 60 000 people  suffering from spasticity in Sweden could increase their movement capacity and capacity for activities with Elektrodress.

Text: Lena M Fredriksson