How useful is wearable technology?

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How useful is wearable technology?

Wearable technology is great for a lot of things, but how useful is wearable technology for our physical health?

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We take a look in particular at how useful wearable technology is at assisting with decision-making on a hip or knee replacement.

Let’s take one of the most common features in wearable technology, for example. Counting steps and step tracking. This feature has been around for a long time, with the majority of us using it to reach that “optimum” target of 10,000 steps a day. This figure has varied over time and will no doubt continue to do so, however, whatever the figure is, it’s always been a target that the “average” person should be able to manage.

It’s this notion that can offer some guidance on whether or not we should have that hip or knee replacement. In a recent study (here), it shows a case for 7000 steps a day being the cut off point for anyone considering hip or knee replacements, and that patients who cannot reach this target due to severity of pain are the ones most in need of a replacement.

It is also important to note that joint replacements are still somewhat risky procedures, leading to more medical complications than conservative care, so making this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Deciding when it is time to have a knee replacement, it may be worth considering alternative information, as opposed to the usual X-ray and MRI scans. Instead, look at cut-off points of 7000 steps per day. Those that clearly can not reach this level due to severity of knee pain are the ones most in need of knee replacement.

Hip versus knee replacements

Generally, hip replacements are considered to be equal to if not superior to knee replacements in terms of outcomes. It is certainly more common to return to higher levels of fitness after hip surgery than it is after knee surgery. It is quite common for people that have had successful hip replacements to go on and compete in what are considered “challenging” activities, such as marathons and triathlons.

Things to consider

As a general rule, the efficiency of surgery is dependent on the amount and quality of bone available to fix the prosthesis in place. This means that hip and knee replacements perform better than ankle replacements and those of us that exercise tend to do better than those of us with sedentary lifestyles.

Use of walking asymmetry as an additional metric

Walking asymmetry is a valuable metric that can provide significant insights into our health, particularly in terms of neurological conditions, rehabilitation progress, fall risk, and overall mobility. The use of modern technology and wearable devices (such as Apple Watch / Health app), makes it easy to incorporate walking asymmetry analysis into various fields, from clinical practice to sports science and everyday health monitoring.

Someone who is taking 8000 steps a day (which is a healthy amount), but with high levels of walking asymmetry (e.g. greater than 20%) may be heading for trouble with an adequate walking amount but limping a lot.

Someone who is only doing 5000 steps a day, but with hardly any walking asymmetry (e.g. less than 5%) can be encouraged to gradually build up to higher step levels, as if walking is very steady, they probably should have the capacity to do higher levels if they have the patience to build up gradually.

If you would like more information on how useful is wearable technology, or you have concerns about a recent hip/knee replacements diagnosis, you can reach out to us for FREE advice at any time, using our “Ask A Physio” service.

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