Trials of a prototype therapy robot are underway and potentially could treat basic complaints such as lateral epicondylitis and low back pain. Emma (expert manipulative massage automation) is a robot arm with a 3d steroscopic camera and massage tip which will consistently repicate treatment sessions. 50 patients have already participated in a trial which will be published later next year with a second prototype following quickly.
Reassuringly the aim of this project was to create a tool which is prescribed by the physiotherapist and not to replace them however it is hard to see how this will not lead on to replacement of massage therapists in time. The treatment programs can be preset and will to some degree take away from the clinical reasoning process. Citing the likely shortage of therapists in the future, alongside the aging population, the company behind this project are reassuring in their project aim. Again, this is NOT to replace therapists.
Perhaps this will be something that can be based at home to provide treatment long-term? How long until manual therapy can be replicated by machine?
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