THEY TALK ABOUT ATLAS: Meeting with Professor Vincent Tiffreau

« The effect of traction is interesting: patients feel lighter, supported, relieved. It’s a pretty amazing feeling. »

In an interview with Japet, Professor Vincent TIFFREAU, Head of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Unit at the Lille University Hospital, gives his first impressions of Atlas.

How do you manage chronic low back pain at the Lille University Hospital?

Since it has been proved that active rehabilitation significantly improves the patients’ conditions, we have implemented a rehabilitation programme. For 5 days a week of a 4 to 6 weeks training courses, patients lift weights, climb stairs, crouch down to pick up objects, workout on machines, do physical activity… everything is focused on movements to improve their ability to perform daily and/or professional activities.

How do you currently manage pain?

All the patients follow the same programme, but for whom who are in hyperlagic phases, some exercises are personalized or less intensive. It’s important to keep in mind that low back pain and associated pain are multidimensional issues – there are indeed physical factors, but there is also a strong psychosocial dimension. It is important to work on the patient’s fears and beliefs to relieve kinesiophobia.

How would you describe the Atlas exoskeleton, what are the advantages?

Atlas is a dynamic trunk orthosis. Its first feature is that it applies forces that reduce intervertebral lumbar disc pressure to relieve pain. The second is that the device follows to the patient’s movements to allow trunk mobilization. By applying resistances, it boosts muscle strengthening. Atlas differs from the existing equipment in that it is an embedded device; you can walk around with it, do exercises with an absolute freedom and autonomy. I really like the concept of the device that I can wear and that it is useful for my rehabilitation.

What is the added value of the Dunamis serious game?

Dunamis makes rehabilitation fun and more intensive. Instead of doing repetitive series of movements, the patient becomes the game character who must succeed in a mission. It activates the reward circuit: when we play, we want to get more points and win. The game (editor’s note: Dunamis) motivates patients, who are more committed to exceeding their scores from a session to the next one; unconsciously they intensify their efforts during the exercises.

How is Atlas perceived by patients?

One patient who used Atlas told us that she feels that her upper body was being lifted. The effect of the traction is interesting: patients feel lighter, supported, relieved; it is a rather surprising, reassuring feeling.

Can you explain the purpose of the ongoing clinical study on the Atlas device running at the Lille University Hospital?

This clinical study aims to prove that the Atlas device relieves pain during a standardised course of activities for patients suffering from chronic low back pain.  In the protocol, patients wear the Atlas device 1 hour a day during the first week of a four-weeks rehabilitation programme; and follow the standard rehabilitation programme. Then there is an assessment to compare the EVA score with and without the device.