How Virtual Reality (VR) can help in physiotherapy
Technology has revolutionised the healthcare industry. Virtual reality (VR) is one of the latest innovations that is being used with physiotherapy.
The BBC reports that virtual reality is helping patients on the road to recovery. The report notes that the results of VR-aided physiotherapy “are promising,” but was also quick to point out that it is more of an extremely useful additional aid, rather than a replacement for basic physiotherapy. The BBC makes a special mention of Caren, the name of the computer assisted rehabilitation environment system installed at the Brain and Spinal Injury Centre (BASIC), an affiliate of the Greater Manchester Clinical Neuroscience Centre at Salford Royal Hospital.
Neuro-physiotherapist Sylvia Moss told the BBC that Caren “is able to do multifactorial things,” including walking, balancing, cognition, and visual field. This capability enables therapy patients to multi-task, which makes the system a particularly useful means to provide necessary therapy to all sorts of patients who need it.
The Independent’s Wendy Powell in her list of ways VR is improving health care explains that VR enables patients to use movements from their therapy exercises in a virtual setting, which gives each movement some sort of context. For instance, the simple act of raising one’s arm takes on a new meaning with the use of VR; through VR that simple act becomes akin to catching a virtual ball.
Powell also notes that it is more fun to do VR-aided exercises, which means patients become more motivated to follow their routines. For example, VR can transform a relatively mundane 15-minute session on a stationary bike to a leisurely tour of a beautiful landscape. The ability to control aspects of the virtual environment is also crucial. Powell cites cases of people with walking anxieties who naturally sped up when they saw themselves walking very slowly in a virtual setting. They think they are walking very slowly, Powell, says, when in reality, VR is making them believe that they need to speed up.
Eran Orr in this Venture Beat feature about VRPhysio, an Israel-based company that enables patients to do physical therapy in VR, points out that games will add even more value to VR-assisted physical therapy. One game that Orr discusses is used to rehabilitate whiplash patients. The game involves filling virtual barrels with water by moving and exercising the neck. He hopes that gaming companies start making attractive games for VRPhysio and similar platforms.
Gaming in itself has many surprising benefits according to game developer Jane McGonigal. She explained that when we play games we have a “real sense of optimism in our abilities and our opportunities to get better and succeed, and more physical and mental energy to engage with difficult problems". She argues that games “helps people heal better, and faster.”
McGonigal's observations are particularly revealing as worldwide gaming has gone mobile. Data from Gaming Realms show that 80% of their audience now play on mobile devices. Mindful of this trend, the company’s flagship gaming site Slingo is now a mobile-friendly platform that means all of its games can be played on mobile devices. This means that the site’s online content can be accessed easily, on the move and at the consumer’s convenience.
Technology has certainly become a part of modern-day life, and it is continuing to provide people novel ways to become healthier. Virtual reality-assisted physiotherapy is just one of the latest innovations in medicine, and it will not be the last.