Back pain gets the pod treatment

00:27, May 08 2013
Southland Times photo
Steve August and his new investion, Backpod.

Physiotherapist Steve August had to give up treating patients after 30 years because his hands failed him but that hasn't stopped his head from helping people.

Backpod, the first product of his new company Bodystance, has just been released and shows immense promise as a treatment for upper back and neck problems.

''It's not a consequence of rarefied research that I have done and come up with a totally new concept. It's more me standing back after 30 years of treating patients and manufacturing something I have used in a homegrown version for 20 years, and it works,'' August said.

''It has to as it is completely logical but there is nothing like it out there.''

Backpod is a simple device; a half-orb with an unyielding core and a cushioned outer. The gentle curve along its long axis allows people to lie back and give their back and neck a good stretch, while the shorter side gives a tighter curve for greater leverage.

It is easy to use - so long as the instructions are followed accurately. It is also highly durable; the firm drove a car over one a few weeks ago to test it out and Backpod survived to serve another day.

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''It works by using your own body weight as leverage to make a difference on the hard material (collagen) in your back, so it starts to free up like you were when you were a kid,'' August said.

''In a perfect neck the ear lobe should sit vertically, roughly above the shoulder. You will see people in their teens walking around with the back of the head positioned in front of the chest. That's extreme, it's normally people in their 70s but people are like that now and it really is a problem.''

An estimated 60 million people in Europe and 45 million people in North America have sore backs and necks, and the problem is only getting worse as portable devices like tablets and iPhones wind back progress made in the design of ergonomic office furniture.

''It is a big problem; it is only increasing and I would like to do something towards helping it.''

August is no stranger to business start-ups, already having founded successful hot tub company Kiwi Tub - another firm created from an August invention.

With that experience under his belt, getting Backpod to market was easier than it might otherwise have been.

For example, the manager of the Christchurch company which makes Backpod for Bodystance had already worked with August on Kiwi Tub so was prepared to give his new product a try.

''What I learned from Kiwi Tub was to give things a go. I never intended to do anything commercial with the tub. I just made one for us, people said make us one, and I've now sold 600 and we still sell one or two a week. You can still dream up something original and worthwhile,'' August said.

Backpod was only released in September, but already more than 1000 have been sold.

August hopes that represents the tip of the iceberg. The device has won a prestigious German red dot award for product design and the firm will be in Germany in full force for the July awards ceremony to push its product.

''The red dot award doubles as a trade show and so industry looks very carefully at what comes through. We are working with Trade and Enterprise, and we are trying to set up as many meetings as possible,'' August said.

''We want to get it out to North America, Europe and Australia. We only need one hit because the numbers are just astronomical.''

D Scene