Design of a Multi-Degree-of-Freedom Elastic Neck Exoskeleton for Persons with Dropped Head Syndrome

Nonsurgical treatment of Dropped Head Syndrome (DHS) incurs the use of collar-type orthoses that immobilize the neck and cause discomfort and sores under the chin. Articulated orthoses have the potential to support the head posture while allowing partial mobility of the neck and reduced discomfort and sores. This work presents the design, modeling, development, and characterization of a novel multi-degree-of-freedom elastic mechanism designed for neck support. This new type of elastic mechanism allows the bending of the head in the sagittal and coronal planes, and head rotations in the transverse plane. From these articulate movements, the mechanism generates moments that restore the head and neck to the upright posture, thus compensating for the muscle weakness caused by DHS. The experimental results show adherence to the empirical characterization of the elastic mechanism under flexion to the model-based calculations. A neck support orthosis prototype based on the proposed mechanism is presented, which enables the three before-mentioned head motions of a healthy participant, according to the results of preliminary tests.


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