A normal force gradient/shear force sensor device and measurement method for measuring internal stresses in tissues of a person supported by a chair or bed includes a planar matrix array of peripheral normal force sensors radially spaced from central shear force sensors, comprising an electrically conductive disk located within a circular opening bordered by circumferentially spaced apart electrodes. The disk and electrodes are located between upper and lower cover sheets made of a stretchable material such as polyurethane; one cover sheet is adhered to the disk and the other sheet is adhered to a support sheet for the electrodes. Motion between the cover sheets in response to shear forces exerted on the array causes the disk to press more or less tightly against the electrodes varying electrical conductance between the disk and electrodes proportionally to the magnitude and direction of the shear force. Each normal force sensor includes an electrically conductive film pressed between row and column conductors. Measurements of conductance values of pairs of sensor, which vary proportionally to normal forces exerted on the sensor, are used to calculate a gradient vector of normal forces exerted by a body part on the sensor array, which is combined with the shear force vectors in an algorithm to calculate internal reaction shear forces, e.g., on flesh near a bony prominence.
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