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Wearable for knee osteoarthritis

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Hand on Knee Brace. Photo Credit:

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A wearable device to reduce knee osteoarthritis pain by teaching individuals to coordinate their muscles differently.

Toward Relief for People with Knee Osteoarthritis 

Person utilizing the wearable device walking on campus
The wearable device in action on the SU campus.

In 2022, Scott Uhlrich ’16 M.S. ’20 Ph.D., the Director of Research in the Stanford Human Performance Lab, co-authored a study that showed people could learn a new way of coordinating their calf muscles using real-time biofeedback that reduces load on their knees by 12%.

The results were significant—the equivalent of someone losing about 20 percent of their body weight—and had huge implications for people with knee osteoarthritis. Nitin Parekh reached out to encourage the team to apply to the HIT Fund.

Since then, Uhlrich and co-PI Stanford Bioengineering and Orthopaedic Surgery Professor Scott Delp have been working with a Stanford GSB MBA student on a business plan and with a wearable device company on a prototype. The team expects to begin testing the device on people with knee osteoarthritis next month.

“I was very attracted by how practical the HIT Fund team was in wanting us to translate this idea out of the lab,” Uhlrich says. “Having a Stanford MBA student work on a business model and figure out the regulatory pathway and reimbursement options—that’s a huge asset, and allows us to focus on developing the technology.”

About The Technology

Knee osteoarthritis is a leading cause of disability globally and affects 22% of individuals over the age of 40. Osteoarthritis is characterized by chronic pain and functional limitations, leading to elevated levels of cardiovascular disease and depression. There is no cure for osteoarthritis; current treatments aim to manage symptoms, progressing from pain medications to joint injections to total joint replacement surgery. Interventions that both improve pain and slow disease progression are needed. Reducing the mechanical loading in the knee is a promising therapeutic target. 
 This project investigates an approach to reduce knee loading by teaching individuals to coordinate their muscles differently. We have previously shown that healthy individuals can learn this new coordination pattern, with a joint-offloading effect similar to losing 20% of bodyweight. As part of the HIT program, we will optimize the delivery of this intervention and investigate its effects in individuals with osteoarthritis. We will also explore how to best integrate this into the current osteoarthritis management model. If effective, this non-invasive therapy could fill a critical treatment gap, improving the quality of life for hundreds of millions of individuals globally.


Team Members

Scott David Uhlrich
Scott David Uhlrich
Director of Research | Stanford Human Performance Lab
View Stanford Profile
Prof. Scott Delp
Prof. Scott Delp
Director, Wu Tsai Human Performance Alliance at Stanford
View Stanford Profile


Protecting your knees against osteoarthritis | 90 Seconds w/ Lisa Kim (via YouTube)


Uhlrich, S.D., Jackson, R.W., Seth, A. et al. Muscle coordination retraining inspired by musculoskeletal simulations reduces knee contact forceSci Rep 12, 9842 (2022).