Although it is awe-inspiring to sit back and watch science transform the world with products such as time released drug delivery, electronic pills, and eco-friendly cleaning products, sometimes the science that we appreciate the most is the science that helps the people closest to us. Here at PSI, we have seen firsthand how polymer technology improves the lives of those working right beside us.
Samantha Paul, our Administrative & Accounts Payable Specialist here at PSI, suffers from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, or TOS. This term is used to describe a group of disorders that occur when there is a compression, injury, or irritation of the nerves and/or blood vessels in the lower neck and upper chest area. Although the cause of TOS is not entirely clear, according to Cleveland Clinic “when the nerves in the tight passageway of the thoracic outlet are abnormally compressed, they become irritated and can eventually cause this syndrome.” A great deal of pain also comes with the syndrome. “When my ribs and spine move out of place, it constricts nerves and blood vessels in my neck,” Paul said. “There is shooting pain and numbness in my arms and other times I just feel sore or have pain in my neck.”
TOS is typically treated by physical therapy, medication and even surgery; however, polymer technology may have found a new way to help treat this condition – in the form of simply wearing a T-shirt. IntelliSkin, a Human Technology company, has created a shirt made from polymer materials that improves posture and alignment of the body.
Dr. Tim Brown created the technology behind the shirt to imitate the kinesiology taping method that is intended to help the body heal as well as provide stability to muscles and joints. Kinesiology tape is what most people know as the colored tape strips that some athletes wear when they want to prevent or heal an injury. This tape works by allowing movement while still receiving support and protecting joints and muscles. Sam has tried this taping method with some success. “The tape did help but it was only a temporary brace that would eventually peel off,” said Paul. “The other downside to the tape was that I couldn’t place the tape on myself.”
With specialized polymer fabrics replacing the high maintenance taping, this T-shirt allows for the healing process and posture improvement to continue each time the shirt is worn. You can see why this material is so beneficial to active patients—they are still able to walk, run, swim and bike without having to be tied down by tight, restrictive tape. They also don’t require assistance to dress themselves (we hope) which makes this treatment option easier and more user friendly.
Studies completed show that the IntelliSkin shirt improved the performance of professional baseball pitchers and protected them from injury. Today even some of the Major League Baseball teams buy IntelliSkin shirts for their players to keep them injury-free. The IntelliSkin material not only proved its worth on the field, but also with patients suffering from lumbopelvic and/ or hip related pathology. When these patients wore shirts made with the same Intelliskin material, it allowed them to have a higher success rate of healing while still being able to move.
So what exactly makes up the material in this T-shirt? These shirts are made with synthetic fibers of spandex, Lycra and nylon. Most are familiar with the elasticity and strength of these materials found in common clothing items such as shorts, sweatpants, and leggings – so what makes this material different? We asked our Senior Technical Consultant, Kyle Copeland, about what the material really meant in terms of positive posture for the person wearing the shirt. He informed us that, “Spandex and Lyra are fibers produced from elastomeric block copolymers which take advantage of the elastic recovery and helps your body move into a desired position while still providing freedom of movement. These elastomeric fibers are often blended with nylon fibers in order to produce a durable textile structure that would not be possible with the elastomers alone. Nylon fibers also have the added benefit of being able to wick moisture away from the skin so that you stay dry.” Copeland said.
Even if you aren’t a Major League Baseball player or someone struggling with TOS pain, this polymer technology could be a great way to improve your posture – something that benefits us all. After all, putting on a shirt is something we all do every day- why not benefit from it?