Modernizing Musculoskeletal Care

The Need for Musculoskeletal Injuries Management Tools

Nan-Wei Gong
Feb 6, 20243 min read
Modernizing Musculoskeletal Care

Musculoskeletal injuries are never managed with proper information to guide the constant diagnostic journey.

The result? Delayed, under or over-treatment in most patients.

Musculoskeletal injuries are challenging to manage, mostly because clinicians are relying on human experience (subjectivity) to evaluate a multi-dimensional soft tissue injury that is changing over time. The only objective evaluations use static imagery technologies (X-Ray and MRI) which only capture a slice of time during the diagnostic journey.

Earlier this year I suffered a small tear on my bicep tendon. This is an injury that typically happens to baseball players and gymnasts. I am neither. I am a workaholic founder of a startup with bad posture, exacerbated by trying to work from home during a global pandemic.

I noticed something was very wrong with my shoulder two months into quarantine. There was no trauma or accident that led to the pain, but I would experience a very sharp pain when trying to lift my right arm.

I can repeatedly cause the pain, which as an engineer, is how I’ve been trained to start debugging my problem. Since founding FIGUR8, I’ve worked with many clinicians and learned how they approach a problem like this. They see injuries as a mystery that needs to be solved, and the good detectives know where to look to find the clues. But it wasn’t until I experienced this painful injury myself that I truly began to understand the issues with MSK injury management.

The first thing I did was call my primary care doctor, who asked me to try and move a certain way, and noted my “limited range of motion” and “acute pain”. She recommended I see a physical therapist and see if that helps. I was also referred to an orthopedic doctor, and to rule out a bone fracture, we took an X-Ray. When the X-Ray didn’t reveal any obvious cause of the pain, I was sent for an MRI.

I went home, and I waited. Everything these amazing clinicians told me made sense – my consistent pain was caused by a potential tear and that the area is swollen. However, that did little to address my frustration. I was in pain, and as the days went by, it didn’t feel as if we were making any progress toward solving the problem. While waiting for the results of the MRI, I focused on doing everything the doctors told me to do to avoid getting a “frozen shoulder.”

Finally, my MRI was analyzed and the tear was confirmed. But in the two weeks in between, my pain level and range of motion had changed so much, I expected more imaging would be needed before a potential procedure would be done.

Then, I happened to be chatting with a chiropractor I know over zoom. I explained what was wrong and she asked me to follow her instructions for 15 minutes. Miraculously, I was able to lift my arm for the first time in two weeks. I followed everything she instructed me to do, and three days later, I finally began to feel there is hope. I am getting better.

With the initial diagnostic feedback, suggesting that I am looking at a one year recovery path, I am now among the many that are constantly battling and managing my chronic pain.

Without accessible technology that can provide objective data to help clinicians and patients throughout the MSK diagnostic journey, I rely on the time-based estimation for my recovery.

As a patient, I experienced the eagerness to see improvement, and how much the data from the FIGUR8 Platform would mean to me – that there might be an end to the severe pain I was experiencing. I witnessed firsthand that our efforts for the past three years truly have the potential to change healthcare and improve the lives of so many of us that are experiencing an MSK injury.

Pain Management