Roots of ObusForme

In 1970, Frank Roberts, an industrial designer, injured his back playing tennis. He was rushed to hospital and remained in traction for a month. This was not the first time he had suffered back pain but it was certainly the worst and he was advised to have an operation in order to avoid recurrence. Before acting on this advice he decided to research the results of back operations through a number of sources, including the files of the Workers’ Compensation Board, and discovered that many patients had been operated on more than once, without necessarily having their back pain relieved.

During his time in traction, a body cast was made. To his delight he found that the combination of immobilizing and resting the spine did relieve the pain. However, when the cast was removed, discomfort returned. He could not sit up restfully for any length of time. Work was a nightmare. He needed a device that would allow him to sit up comfortably and to that end tried a multitude of conventional products, none of which eased his pain. Out of frustration, he sawed in half the original body cast which had given such relief. He covered it with foam and a pillowcase and used it to support his back when sitting in his car or office chair. Slowly the pain subsided.

Eventually the plaster began to crumble and the cast weighed over 50 lbs. Carrying this weight back and forth was not helping his back, and at this point he decided to design a light-weight, supportive backrest to hold the back muscles and spine at rest. Working closely with a rheumatologist, the research department of a chiropractic college and orthopedic surgeons, he designed a portable, brace-like backrest out of fiberglass. It could support the spine in any chair, car seat, or bed.

In 1980, production began on his final design. The present design only weighs 907 grams (32 ounces). It is an ergonomically accurate representation of the curves of the spine, reproduced in firm yet resilient polycarbonates and reinforced plastics, and covered in foam and a comfortable and hypo-allergenic fabric. He named it and his company ObusForme.

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