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This new product aims to straighten out your “smartphone slump” and relieve pain caused by “text neck”

smartphone slump

A 2014 study led by spine surgeon Kenneth Hansrah revealed that bending your head to look at a handheld mobile device can put up to 60 pounds of pressure on your neck. No doubt, this may be damaging to the spine and supporting tissues. And, with billions of people globally using cell phones today (and this number on the rise), so is poor posture and “text neck,” which can result in neck pain, headaches and a plethora of other health issues.

California-based startup Backmate has developed a device, dubbed The Backmate, that is designed to provide easy pain relief for the over 80% of Americans who experience back and neck pain, whether through injury or the wear and tear of life. It’s also meant to combat the harmful effects of smartphone and computer use by strengthening the cervical muscles and improve posture.

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The concept is simple. The self-massager sets up in any 24-36” wide doorway (reminiscent of your big brother’s bedroom chin-up bar when he went through his attempted-and-failed “bulking up” phase). A bar rotates from horizontal to vertical in order to massage the whole body with two rotating balls which we’ve been told can be swapped out with bonus attachments, including a hot and cold option. The user just has to lean into The Backmate where they feel pain or tension in any muscle group and relax.

Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve tried foam rolling, or rolled atop lacrosse balls at the gym to use your own body weight to apply the right amount of pressure. But, these common physiotherapy techniques, as well as other massagers, require the user to active muscle groups to apply pressure and don’t tend to produce deep tissue release.

The Backmate says they’re different because users can adjust the massage heads to different heights and even deploy different attachments to hit those hard-to-reach areas. It can be mounted at any height on the doorframe to target different parts of the body—up high for upper back and neck, midway for lower back, shoulders and arms, and down low for legs and thighs. It helps users find relief without needing to bend like a pretzel on the floor.

The device is easy to install, use and put away. It’s lightweight and made up of stainless steel and engineering grade plastic for high strength, durability, aesthetics and, most importantly, safety. The dual message head rotates to hit all of the muscle groups at any angle and is designed to provide deep tissue release using body weight not body strength.

Backmate’s removable end caps allow it to be easily stored and transported. The quick/lock release and a built-in level allows for easy and fast setup and take down without damaging walls.

The creative minds behind The Backmate are Eric Bostrom and Dustin Bouch. Bostrom professionally raced motorcycles in the US and internationally for over 25 years, winning multiple championships for Kawasaki, Harley-Davidson, and Honda. After years of racing at speeds up to 200 mph, he suffered several skeleton rattling crashes that left him with chronic neck and back pain accompanied by severe headaches.

“The idea for Backmate came through my own experience with pain,” said professional motorcycle racer and co-founder Eric Bostrom. “During my racing career, I suffered several injuries that left me with chronic neck and back pain and headaches. I tried the traditional route of medication and physiotherapy, but I couldn’t get lasting relief. I needed something that will provide immediate onsite relief that didn’t cause other discomforts, like bending in awkward positions with a tennis ball.”

While Bostrom was looking for solutions, he hit several walls. Physiotherapy can be quite expensive and without a long-term plan, can only give short term relief. Medications work but often come with side effects.

It was then the team knew that this would be the beginning of a lifelong mission to help anyone with pain. Backmate represents Bostrom’s mission to encourage others to take a proactive approach to pain and immobility.

Bostrom’s idea is for Backmate to be incorporated into everyday life. Everyone has a hundred things on their to-do lists, and at any given time health isn’t always a priority. According to the company’s Kickstarter campaign, with just two minutes a day, users start feeling relief, in the comfort of their home.

Bostrom stated that through research, he found that relief is attainable by combining active recovery, circulatory system stimulation, stretching and strengthening exercises. Coupled with co-founder Bouch’s mechanical engineering and business expertise (previous experience including roles at NASA, Northrop-Grumman and Boeing), the duo is seeking to develop a healthy, long-term solution for chronic and acute pain.

“When Eric and I came together to work on Backmate, we knew that this was only the beginning of a lifelong mission to help anyone with pain,” adds co-founder Dustin Bouch. “We want Backmate to help users easily incorporate recovery, stimulation, stretching and strengthening into their lives and realize true pain relief and restore their quality of life.”

Backmate is able to improve sleep as massages help promote relaxation and can help reduce cortisol and increase dopamine. According to the founders, daily massage has been proven to lower stress hormones. The Backmate helps you find and then release the exact areas you’re storing stress to feel more relaxed and happy every day.

Today, the company’s range of products are designed to provide a holistic approach for ongoing relief for people with active lifestyles, chronic pain, or injuries. The company has two earlier products that include a vibrating foam roller and power massager and are available for purchase on the company’s website.

The creators say The Backmate is supposed to reduce inflammation, regulate the nervous system for daily stress relief and increase circulation for faster healing and recovery, improve mobility, and alleviate tension headaches. Sounds like a tall order, but it might not be off the mark.

The team has an impressive compilation of testimonials from a roster of athletes (including Olympic Snowboarder Tyler Jewell, Tour de France stage Winner Dave Zabriske among others) and everyday people (such as hair stylists)  beta testing the product. They have partnered with various chiropractic practices, sports medicine clinics, and trainers to get the product design to where it is today.

The gadget, currently priced at US$99, has a quick release system and level for easy setup in a few seconds. Weighing in at under 4 pounds, The Backmate travels well in a suitcase and is no doubt cheaper than covering travel expenses for your massage therapist.   

We like how simple the idea is: scale back on massage therapy costs and throw out the pain pills. Give yourself a deep-tissue self-massage for a few minutes a day to relieve pain, lower stress levels and strengthen up. Sounds reasonable.

(Like any other type of equipment or exercise, before you decide to try it out, don’t forget to consult with your doctor or medical practitioner).

And, like any other crowdfunding campaign, there’s always the chance of delays and risk of non-delivery. The company has a modest fundraising goal of $15,000, so we’re crossing our fingers they will be able to bring this thing to life. If they do, the products are due to be shipped to first customers October 2019. The company is also offering a 30-day money back guarantee.

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