Therapeutic use : Neck / shoulder pain

The shoulder and neck both share the common characteristic that they provide complex ranges of movement, which comes at a cost of less protection, and thus vulnerability to various types of pain and injury.

Furthermore, the neck and shoulder have a close anatomical proximity which can even result in neck problems giving shoulder pain, and vice versa.

Treatments for both neck pain and shoulder pain range from the well known such as heat ice packs, heat treatment, postural exercises or braces, physiotherapy, massage, to lesser known ways of reducing discomfort.

If these work and resolve the problem then great. Unfortunately this is not always the case. There might be options for surgery, but this is not always reliable to solve the problem without complications.

In all this, many people are left with some kind of long term neck and shoulder pain, with no better solution than to live with the discomfort, and take pain killers as necessary.

Looking at how Smooth Move works then easing the source of the problem is inherent in the Smooth Move process. The goal of Smooth Move is to remove underlying tensions and postural habits that can often be the origins of neck / shoulder pain.

Case studies


After several months with chronic shoulder pain, a few weeks use of Smooth Move significantly reduced the discomfort, and within a few months all pain was gone - for further details please read move.

Thus far Smooth Move is only at the start of being trialled for use in reducing neck / shoulder pain. If you are using Smooth Move for a neck / shoulder condition, please consider contacting the development team to contribute a case study, the development team can be contacted by email.

Download


If you would like to try the Smooth Move app it is available for free for Android smartphones from the Google play store.

Therapeutic use : Hand tremors (Essential tremor)

Essential tremor is categorised as a neorological condition, but the exact causes and disease mechanisms are not well understood. The end result though is a problem in the deep parts of the brain that control movements.

Roughly 50% of cases are linked to specific genetic causes, but in general there is no known cause, only ongoing research and a list of risk factors.

Unfortunately, at the present time the typical prognosis indicates a likely continual and gradual worsening of the condition, with no known reliable cure.

Treatment options are also not ideal. The drug treatments often came with significant side effects. Surgical procedures involving brain implants can be effective, but of course present risks.

There are several technology ways to assist with living with the condition, but Smooth Move is a new technology assist that works to control and reduce the condition.

Research into Parkinson's disease, an unrelated tremor condition highlights that exercises such as tai chi can improve conscious awareness of body movements, and promote relaxation. There is every reason to believe these same processes should also be relevant to improving symptoms of essential tremor. When the mind can have a relaxed conscious influence on the nervous system and how it controls movements, then the mind can start to directly influence tremors at their source.

Looking at how Smooth Move works then the goals of promoting conscious body movements, and relaxation are a fundamental part of the Smooth Move process. What might be more significant for therapeutic use relating to tremors though is the way Smooth Move will promote the brain to develop new neural pathways to achieve fine motor control. There is a long list of miraculous feats of the brain's recovery powers, and the goal of Smooth Move is tap into the natural brain repair processes for the purpose of tremor control and reduction.

Case studies


After three years with a worsening tremor, several months working with Smooth Move has resulted in a practically tremor free life - for further details please read move.

Thus far Smooth Move is only at the start of being trialled for use in reducing essential tremor. If you are using Smooth Move for a tremor related condition, please consider contacting the development team to contribute a case study, the development team can be contacted by email.

Download


If you would like to try the Smooth Move app it is available for free for Android smartphones from the Google play store.



Case study : Neck / Shoulder pain

After the initial successes of the first tester, using Smooth Move to help with essential tremor, a second tester was recruited, a female, over 70 years old, who had a persistent neck / shoulder pain on the left side of the body. The problem had appeared without an evident cause, and common factors such as work stress or regular computer use were not involved.

The neck / shoulder pain was certainly having an effect on day to day life. At the times it was worse, it was a source for frequent comments that 'my shoulder hurts'. There were some types of movement such as raising the hand to head height at certain angles which were so painful as to not be practical possibilities. Sleeping could be affected when it wasn't comfortable to lay in certain positions or to move easily

Another challenge for Smooth Move. This was exactly the type of problem that the Smooth Move App was designed to tackle. Roughly eight months into working with the first tester, the app was now also in a more usable form.

After only one month of daily practice, the tester didn't report any particular change, but her partner had noticed that the frequency of comments about 'my shoulder's hurting' were reducing.

By the end of only the second month of using Smooth Move, the tester was reporting improvements. Initially that the shoulder was hurting a bit less, but soon being described as hurting much less. Something along the lines of 50% gone.

The first timescale after which Smooth Move is anticipated to have a significant impact is three months, and sure enough after around three months the tester started to report that the shoulder was hardly hurting at all, now 75% gone, and relegated to an occasional background discomfort.

To date the second tester has continued to use Smooth Move for eight months, and now reports no neck / shoulder pain at all. Also that there is no evident restrictions on the movement ranges in either shoulder.

The primary goal of Smooth Move had shown itself to be achievable, and with the additional contribution of a second dedicated tester, the app was being prepared for public launch.

The practice regime used was a single daily practice session, with the occasional breaks when a daily session wasn't easy to fit in.

As with the first tester, it can't be conclusive that Smooth Move was a key factor in the positive changes, but from no sign of any easing of the shoulder pain, the total reduction was achieved in a relatively small period of time of just a few months.

The Smooth Move development team are now hoping more people will try out Smooth Move for shoulder and neck pain related conditions.

The Smooth Move app is available free for Android smartphones from the Google play store. The development team can be contacted by email for further information.

Case study : Hand tremors (Essential tremor)

The first dedicated tester during the Smooth Move development was a male, over 70 years old, who had been developing a hand tremor for a few years. It had been noticeable by other family members for around 3 years. In the year prior to starting to use Smooth Move the tremor had also become a step more pronounced. It was starting to have an effect on day to day living, for example carrying liquids in cups was becoming less and less practical.

Initially the focus for the tester was in helping to develop the algorithms and interface so the Smooth Move app worked in the way envisaged. This was a slow process through many weeks, but while in this technical refinement phase there was the first indication of some positive therapeutic results. About three to four months after the testing started the tester reported that they had noticed they could influence their tremors. This generally had aspects of averting, or reducing tremors as they started.

This was already something the development team had hardly dared to imagine would be possible. Further time was going to be needed to see if this was temporary, a genuine gain, or the start of something even more interesting.

There was another three months or so before the next change was reported by the tester. A further improvement. The testers ability to influence the tremors had increased. They had gained a reliable level of ability to avert tremors as they were triggered. A threshold in daily living had been passed in that the tester was now carrying cups of breakfast tea across the kitchen.

This was now some cause for optimism that Smooth Move would not only meet the development teams goals, but substantially surpass them. None of the internet research had indicated that this was a typical outcome of essential tremor.

The final major step was after a further few months of Smooth Move use, when the level of control was becoming something that really could be trusted. This step was marked when the tester had regained the confidence to carry morning coffee from the kitchen through to the lounge, over a carpeted floor no less.

Great news for the tester and his family. The tremors are now considered something that is not largely noticeable by family in every day situations encountered.

The tester has thus far been using Smooth Move for a year and a half, and now investigates matters such as what hand positions, and what type of situations trigger them. This with the confidence that with their mind, and how it now interacts with the body, they can switch tremors off again. The one exception known is that when public speaking to a room of people, the 'stress' of this situation can still leave the tester unable to control tremors, so that is a goal that may yet still be reached.

The Smooth Move practice regime used was 7 minute practice sessions on a daily basis. Initially two or occasionally three sessions were practised on most days, but after the first six months this was switched so a single daily practice session.

What we don't know is if this was a rare coincidence. Even though tremor is not known for spontaneous and treatment-less cure, this can't be ruled out.

The Smooth Move development team are now hoping more people will try out Smooth Move for tremor related conditions.

The Smooth Move app is available free for Android smartphones from the Google play store. The development team can be contacted by email for further information.

Basic look at how Smooth move works

Smooth Move was developed out of the experiences of 20 years practice using Tai Chi for helping chronic shoulder pain and spine problems.

The foundation for Smooth Move was based on the question : How could the sensors in a smartphone be used with simple exercises to give therapeutic benefits ?

There was every reason to believe that smartphone sensor readings could be converted into audio feedback, and that this feedback could be arranged to guide a Smooth Move user to move with an increasingly subtle refinement.

This higher quality movement would be achieved by the mind and body naturally adjusting, simply put trying out different ways to move that would reduce the audio feedback. This involves adjusting the levels at which different muscles are relaxing and being used, and balancing the myriad factors involved in healthy posture.

After two years of development and testing, case studies for hand tremors, and for neck / shoulder pain, demonstrate that a few minutes practice with the Smooth Move app can indeed achieve the goals of therapeutic benefits.

More technical details on how the Smooth Move concept originated and developed can be found in the advanced look at how Smooth Move works.

Advanced look at how Smooth move works

The origins of Smooth Move are from the developers 20 year study of Qigong and Tai Chi. This was initially for chronic shoulder pain, but after that was resolved study progressed to a goal of improving a long term spinal injury. Studying for the last 10 years with the Energy Arts school, and the depth of knowledge of the school's founder has given the development team an understanding of many the advanced technical components that make Qigong and Tai Chi work.

Combining a knowledge of how to learn Tai Chi, how to fix injuries with Tai Chi, and how the body works to achieve Tai Chi goals, led to the idea that the sensors in a smartphone could be adapted to help with this process.

Tai chi is known as a slow moving exercise method. One of the primary reasons why Tai Chi is practiced slowly is due to the very large number of subtle details in advanced Tai Chi which should be continuously maintained at a high level of accuracy. This is a major challenge for the conscious mind, but the better it is achieved the greater the benefits from Tai Chi practice.

To achieve an advanced level of Tai Chi skill, and unlock the advanced potentials of the body, takes dedicated practice and hard work. This is many hours per week, over many years, with skilled teachers to guide. It isn't easy. Lower skill levels of Tai Chi can still give worthwhile benefits, but the goal of Smooth Move was to use technology to give access to the advanced benefits, without the difficulty of traditional training methods.

The most advanced levels of Tai Chi are characterised by a smooth flow and integration of all aspects of the practitioners mind and body. From this the idea of Smooth Move originated. A smartphone sensor should be able to give a qualitative reading of the smooth flow of the basic physical body, but within this there would be information on how all the Tai Chi factors are performing.

The list of factors at only a basic level is already quite daunting. The muscles, nerves, ligaments, tendons, veins, fascia, blood, have complex interactions between themselves, and also with the mind that is supervising activity. Advanced Tai Chi is not a simple business.

The idea behind Smooth Move was that the quality of movement from the factors would be reflected in the sensor measured quality of basic physical movement. So then following simple exercises, any dips in the how the factors were performing would be measurable, and an audio signal could be generated to alert the practitioner.

This already solves one of the biggest hurdles in doing high quality Tai Chi. It isn't about just following a sequence of movements, but doing so in way that activates and integrates myriad factors within the body.

In high quality Tai Chi, a practitioner needs to be able to be sensitive to the accuracy of the factors affecting their movement, and know what to correct as they perceive necessary. This is as difficult as it sounds.

With Smooth Move this is all eliminated. A Smooth Move practitioner just has to move slowly and carefully, and when the audio feedback indicates the quality of movement is dipping, be mindful and apply a little extra care to how they are moving.

With this little extra care, the mind, body, and brain will automatically seek ways to adapt to move in a more precise way. A slight adjustment here, a fractional relaxation there. This replicates the high level Tai Chi practitioners approach, only without the years of practice and skilled teachers.

With only a few minutes per day of training, but day after day of practice, the adaptation will build to improve a Smooth Move practitioners ability to move in a high quality mindful way.

That was the idea, and after two years of development, two testing case studies, one for hand tremors, and one for neck / shoulder pain, confirm that Smooth Move is already meeting and surpassing the original goals outlined here.

Both the developer, and other advanced Tai Chi practioners can confirm that using Smooth Move replicates effortlessly the skills that normally take a decade or more to learn.


Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Michael Lai for permission to use his image of the mystical mountains of Zhang Jia Jie, China. It features as the background here, and for the app itself. This is but one of many inspiring images from across the continents, to be found on his Retiree Diary blog.

Available for Android

The first public release of Smooth Move is available for Android, and can be downloaded using the 'Google Play' badge at the foot of the page.

For mobile users, please use this link.

For iPhone users, sorry an iPhone version isn't currently available.

Smooth Move Launches

After two years of development and testing, the Smooth Move App has been launched in the Google Play Store.

It's been quite a journey from the first idea, through to the first prototype, fully working demo, recruiting testers, refining the user interface, and now a live launch.

A big thank you to all who contributed in getting to this point.