Could a wearable vibrating device ease the phantom pain felt by people who have lost a limb?
Amira Idris, a native of Nigeria who came to the University of Delaware thanks to an academic and track scholarship. is applying her UD degrees—a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering and a master’s in entrepreneurship and design—as well as her background in athletics to answer that question.
“I’m always the first person to try it,” she says of her research, which she expects this year to generate a prototype—a sleeve that forms a cap on the end of the limb—for testing by amputees who want to get on with life. She needs to assess the frequency, intensity and magnitude of the vibrations.
“I am so frustrated with the pain from something that isn’t there,” Bob, one of her 80 interviewees, says on her website. “I hate taking pills. … I wish that someone had an answer.”
Pain management can top $8,000 a year for “home remedies, cannabis, electric therapy, surgery, pharmaceutical drugs and massage therapy,” according to her website. In her research, Idris found home remedies to generate vibrations include using a massage device, adapting a vibrator, riding a scooter over a rough surface and hitting the carbon fiber prostheticwith a hammer.
Idris, a 24-year-old Pike Creek resident and founder of Vibrating Therapeutic Apparel, quickly recovers from sore muscles but notes this of vibration therapy: “I like the way it feels.”
Studies support vibration therapy for pain, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, muscle spasticity and bone density for post-menopausal women, she says. But making it continuous and convenient is hard.
She saw the problem when she met an amputee depressed by pain, and she spotted a path when she saw a vibrating platform used to massage athletes at UD, where she was a sprinter and long jumper.
Her startup so far has been backed by $15,000 won in competitions at UD’s Horn Program in Entrepreneurship, and she’s continuing that approach to fund her research and prototyping.
Her website says there are 10 million amputees worldwide, with the number in the U.S. expected to double by 2050. “Not just amputees and blade runners,” she says. “We forget about the average joe.”