Digital physical therapy company Hinge Health expands into pain relief

Digital musculoskeletal health company Hinge acquired Enso, a startup making a wearable device that uses electrical pulses for pain relief. Photo credit: Hinge Health

As more digital health companies merged into bigger platforms, industry experts watched fast-growing musculoskeletal health startup Hinge Health as a potential acquirer.

After recently passing a $3 billion valuation, the company shared plans to buy Enso, a company making devices that use electrical nerve stimulation for pain relief, for an undisclosed amount. The deal is expected to close within weeks, a Hinge spokesperson wrote in an email.

Hinge, which was founded in 2015, developed an app to guide users through physical therapy exercises. It includes sensors that users wear to get feedback as they perform exercises, and a dedicated coach to keep them on track.
It contracts with health plans to offer its services, with clients including Vail Resorts, Salesforce and Zappos.

San Francisco-based Enso (also known as Thimble Bioelectronics) developed a small, over-the-counter device that adheres to the skin and uses electrical pulses for pain relief. It received FDA 510(k) clearance in 2016.

The app-connected device works similar to a TENS unit, a device used by some physical therapists and chiropractors. But the evidence as to whether TENS units work for treating low back pain is mixed, at best. The American Academy of Neurology issued guidance in 2009 recommending against using the devices to treat low back pain, citing a lack of evidence.

Meanwhile, other digital health companies are looking to bundle together more clinical services. Omada Health, which started as a digital diabetes prevention program, has since acquired virtual physical therapy startup Physera and behavioral health startup Lantern Health. Livongo’s merger with Teladoc last year was also a potential indicator of more digital health mergers to come.

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