(DiScOVer) - Dynamic Splinting of Vertebral fractures

Yorkshire & HumberMusculoskeletal
Start Date: 1 Feb 2015 End Date: 31 Jul 2017


It is estimated that one in twelve men and one in six women will suffer a symptomatic vertebral fracture during their lifetime, and with the prevalence of osteoporosis predicted to increase by 2021, a rise in fractures will also be realised. Vertebral fractures pose a significant public health burden with 8% of vertebral fractures requiring hospitalisation and 2% requiring long-term nursing care. They are associated with both increased morbidity and mortality with significant pain, functional disability, reduced quality of life, gastro-intestinal symptoms, height loss, depression, breathing difficulties and an increased risk of further fractures.

Orthotics and bracing are a conservative management option that can provide structural support, reduce movement to enable the vertebrae to heal and reduce pain. To date, research evaluating these devices has been limited.

Project aims

To establish the effectiveness of orthotics or taping in the management of osteoporotic vertebral fractures.
To establish whether a prototype support garment can be developed in conjunction with service users.

Current activity

We are currently working with DMOrthotics and ten service users to develop a prototype support garment for people who have suffered a vertebral fracture. The garment has been designed in conjunction with three people who have experienced a vertebral fracture. These service users will also be trialling the garment and providing feedback on its design and use. This work has been supported by funding from the University of Exeter’s Research & Knowledge Transfer Team.  

We have been awarded additional funding from AGILE (Chartered Physiotherapists working with Older people) to undertake a systematic review of orthotics and taping for the management of vertebral fractures for people with osteoporosis.

We are planning to use the data that is gained from the prototype development and systematic review to develop a funding application for a proof of concept study.

This project has received a £10,000 Innovation, Impact and Business collaboration grant, with match funding from DM Orthotics, the NIHR funded Dignity Healthcare Technology Co-operative (D4D), the University of Exeter Medical School and College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences.

Dr Vicki Goodwin