Step change in reducing knee joint injury and pain

18 April 2016
Group shot with the project members: Thor Besier, Daniel Chen and Markus Haller.
Thor Besier, Daniel Chen and Markus Haller. Credit: A. Ballance / RNZ

ABI’s Thor Besier, his doctoral student Daniel Chen and intern Markus Haller spoke to Radio NZ's Our Changing World programme about their research in knee joint injury and pain, a common problem for middle-aged people. They created wearable devices that help patients alter the way they walk, which reduces injury, pain and delays the need for surgery for many years.

With promising clinical trial results, Thor is aiming to trial them with patients in the real world at the end of this year.

In this article, they discuss how the devices work, the different ways for giving tactile feedback to patients they tried, and the unexpected potential uses for the technology.

“This is one of the great things about doing basic research, you never know where it’s going to go,” Thor says.

Read the complete RNZ article here.


About the Project

The cartilage in our knees can become damaged as we age, due to osteoarthritis or being overweight for example. Thor’s research has found that by analysing and making simple changes to the way patients walk, the mechanical loading placed on the cartilage can be changed. This could quickly reduce knee pain and delay the need for surgery for years.

“The effect we can make with these minor adjustments can be as dramatic as having surgery where you cut away a piece of bone … and realign the joint,” Thor says.

Unsatisifed with relying on expensive specialised equipment, Thor with his doctoral student Daniel and intern Markus have been translating this into an ankle bracelet and “smart socks” for use at home. The devices use vibrating motors to create a stroking feeling on the wearer, guiding them to alter their walking motion. They have helped patients in clinical trials, and Thor is aiming to trial them with patients in the real world at the end of this year.

The research is funded by a Marsden Grant.



Portrait of

Thor Besier
Associate Professor

Daniel Chen

Daniel Chen
Doctoral Candidate