Got back problems?

By Dale Miller

Describing lower back pain and identifying its cause can be a long and fruitless task to patients and doctors alike.

Dr. Greg Kawchuk, along with his research team of two University of Calgary undergraduate Kinesiology students–Sean Osis and Laura Glowicki–have developed a soft tissue indenter to measure and catalogue the soft tissue stiffness in patient’s back. With this data they hope to eliminate some of the guesswork and quantify the diagnostic process.

"You lie down on your stomach and we use an ultrasound to locate different parts of the spine," said Osis, who was hired over the summer to help on the project. "We then use the soft tissue indenter and interface to measure stiffness so we can then attach a number to that stiffness."

While this process involves direct pressure onto the lower back, Osis insists it is as painless as possible.

"We want to make sure it’s comfortable," said Osis. "It doesn’t apply any excessive force, the pressure is equivalent to a bag of sugar."

"The procedure is painless, it’s fun and it only takes 20 minutes," added Glowicki, who also stressed that the process is strictly diagnostic–no treatment is involved.

Since this is still in the research phase, Dr. Kawchuk and his team are in constant need of new volunteers so they can get a large enough database to diagnose back problems on the general pubic.

"We’re looking for people who have recently had a problem with their back," said Glowicki. "We are still looking for volunteers for the study, we need as many people as we can get–do it in the name of science."

If you are interested in helping out with the research, between 18 and 65 years of age, experiencing low back pain and not pregnant, you can contact Dr. Kawchuk and team at 210-9751 or

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