Design of Intellighent Medical Apparel with Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Function

Project Investigator: Dr. Li Li

Conductive yarn in fabrics can be used to transport electrical signals of various strengths for TENS in acupuncture therapy. Because the conductive yarn is perfectly embedded in the fabric, the use of bulky electrical cables is not necessary, and thus, the aesthetic value of the garment can be greatly improved. By combining TENS with conductive fabric technology, we have designed a series of functional garments that can be used for physical therapy.

This was a pilot study for the integration of garment design skills, Chinese acupuncture therapy, and TENS technology together in a single intelligent TENS garment. This study consisted of designing a wearable garment with TENS functionality to apply TENS signals for the stimulation of acupuncture points on the body in a textile-based manner. The garment was observed to have obvious advantages over a garment that incorporates a TENS device: it is simple, quick and easy to target the back of the body or any other area that is required; it is washable; and in addition, it enables more flexible treatment by accommodating different numbers and locations of acupuncture points. The knitwear was developed based on the intarsia knitting technique, using conductive stitches and the proposed textile electrodes to create a novel therapeutic method for healthcare through direct dressing.

Special Features & Advantages:

The proposed project will result in potentially significant effects described by the following topical issues: textile in healthcare development, Chinese medicine innovation, and caring possibilities for a patient. For instance:

  • The proposed project is intended to develop a smart apparel system to solve the existing problems in TENS treatment. It may put forward a new therapeutic method.
  • The innovative approach has the high potential to improve significantly the caring possibilities for a patient as follows: It will efficiently observe to have more advantages than ones incorporating TENS device at optimum conditions, i.e., in a precise, controllable and multi-functional way, with maximum level of comfort and hygiëne.
  • It is convenient for patients, enabling them to wear a lightweight garment for TENS treatment. Patients will be able to use it whenever and wherever as per their prescription, such as during work, leisure, cooking, etc.
  • The TENS garment is quick to target skin regions because the textile is like a person’s second skin. It also can be incorporated into any type of clothing or accessories.
  • It is inexpensive and the garment serves the purpose of more than a healthcare product; it also serves as a garment or accessory.

Figure 1: Knitted conductive fabrics and a garment with a pattern designed to hide conductive circuits.
This result was published in The Design Journal (Volume 17, Number 1, pp. 137-154(18), 2014).