COVER STORY:Life Innovation
Caption: The CB Brace developed by Sakima Prosthetics, held here by company president Tamotsu Sakima.
Credit: YOHEI OHSHIRO
Nakamura Brace employs eight people at its Medical Art Research Laboratory, where the company’s innovative prosthetic body parts are developed.
Credit: TADASHI AIZAWA
The innovative products of Japanese prosthetics makers are bringing joy and relief to thousands.
Walking without Pain
As people age, their knee joints change shape, and there are now more than 12 million people in Japan who have trouble walking as a result. Joint braces attached to the knee can help these people walk. Traditional joint braces are heavy, weighing between 300 and 700 grams, which is a problem because it makes it difficult for the people wearing them to bend and straighten their knees, making walking a burden. Now Sakima Prosthetics and Orthotics Co., a company based in Okinawa, has developed a joint brace called the CB brace, which weighs only 200 grams. They were able to make the brace lighter by improving the brace’s bearing power using a center bridge that links the joint fittings on both sides of the knee.
“There are even cases of people whose arthritis has healed after exercising while wearing the brace for two or three months,” says Tamotsu Sakima, president of Sakima Prosthetics and Orthotics Co. “I think that this is because their muscle strength recovers as they rediscover the joy of walking and start to make a point of going for a walk more often.”
Ohda City, Shimane Prefecture. Located on the site of the world heritage Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine is Nakamura Brace, a company that is highly regarded around the world for its artificial breasts and prostheses made from silicon rubber.
In August 2009, the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) and Tokai Rubber Industries announced that they had developed RIBA, the world’s first robotic orderly that can pick up a human being. RIBA can use its two arms to lift people out of bed, move them to a new location and then lower them onto another bed.
Nakamura Brace advocates “medical art,” the concept of realistically reproducing parts of the human body that have been lost due to accident or illness. The company has trained technicians to create, by hand, prosthetic body parts such as hands, ears, noses and breasts to match each individual patient. “In 1982 we were the first company in the world to develop and sell silicon rubber inner-soles, and we have continued to develop silicon rubber technology since then. The accumulation of this technology has led to the development of exquisite artificial prostheses,” says Toshiro Nakamura of Nakamura Brace. “We have received positive feedback from many users who are delighted with our products, saying things like ‘It’s like part of my body’ or ‘It has healed my psychological wounds.’”