Got your back: Treating aches and improving workplace wellbeing – Med-Tech Innovation

Ian Bolland speaks to Chongsu Lee, founder and CEO of Edinburgh-based start-up Pacla, which has developed Back Hug, a product that aims to improve the wellbeing of people in the workplace.

After working as an engineer for Hyundai in Seoul, Lee’s interest in the human body saw him move to Edinburgh to study physiotherapy in 2006. Following his studies, he set up a clinic in the Scottish capital and developed his own technique to treat back pain – ultimately developing Back Hug.

Explaining the tri-component nature of the product, Lee said: “When people lie down on their back, 24 robotic fingers stimulate the centre of the back. The back of the device comprises motors, plastic, metal, electronics such as PCB’s as well as some upholstery.”

Accompanying that is a private cubicle so people are treated in private. Their treatments can be selected via the Back Hug app on a smartphone.

The plan is for users to be treated away from their desks, as Lee states that any treatment while sat up working at a desk is counterintuitive.

“One of the key principles in Back Hug is people see a lot more benefits when they lie down and then get a proper treatment in the centre of the back. All of the stress and the tension building around the neck and the back is a lot to do with continuous and persistent sitting.”

How the device works relates to the business model being operated with Back Hug. Currently a cubicle is being installed in offices which have at least 100 employees on site free of charge – with Lee citing government buildings as organisations undertaking the practice.

It is installed free of charge and after a user has had a complimentary session, they are then charged via sessions booked on their smartphone.

“Rather than asking people to come to a particular clinic or places we install devices where they work – either in GP practices or offices, even in public spaces. So, there is great accessibility. One of the persistent issues people have is cost. The resources are either too expensive, or in the NHS the resources are not really available, they are quite scarce.

“Most of the public bodies’ offices we’ve approached, they encourage their staff and visitors to use so that they become back pain free and encourage their productivity.”

As far as where Lee would like to see Back Hug adopted, he feels there is scope for them to be adopted in GP practices – making it easier for patients rather than referring them to a specialist clinic to receive treatment.

“One of the areas we’re really keen to explore is GP practices. GPs see people with aches and pains and even stress. There are probably lots of people who would be able to benefit from back hug because it is very accessible and affordable. If Back Hug can be available for GPs with free installation and they can refer the people to use Back Hug.”

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