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The Real System VR use in rehabilitation

How is VR used in Rehabilitation?

Zornitsa Vuteva 3 days ago 0 4

The use of VR technology in rehabilitation has been gaining significant attention in recent years due to its potential to enhance patient outcomes and improve treatment efficacy. By immersing patients in a simulated environment, VR can provide a more engaging and interactive experience that can help them recover from injuries or illnesses more effectively.

This innovative approach has been shown to be particularly effective in rehabilitation settings, where traditional methods may not be as engaging or effective for patients. In this article, we will explore the current state of VR in rehabilitation, its benefits, and the various ways it is being used to improve patient outcomes.

Use cases of VR in rehabilitation

VR is found to be a useful tool for enhancing the recovery process outcomes of the following conditions:

Neurological Rehabilitation

VR is utilized to aid patients with neurological impairments like cerebral palsy or spinal cord injuries in restoring postural balance and motor skills. This technology proves to be particularly effective for individuals dealing with stroke, brain injuries, and spinal cord damages.

Physical Therapy

VR supports patients with limb injuries in training mobility functions and overcoming muscle weakness. It presents a more engaging and effective alternative to traditional physical therapy methods.

Cognitive Rehabilitation

VR is beneficial for patients with cognitive impairments such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder or early dementia. It helps in improving memory, attention, and problem-solving skills.

Upper-Extremity Rehabilitation

VR is employed for rehabilitating upper-extremity functions, including hand-eye coordination and body posture. It is notably helpful for patients experiencing upper-extremity dysfunction due to various injuries and diseases.

Stroke Rehabilitation

VR assists patients in enhancing their self-care skills by simulating real-life activities, which in turn improves their ability to perform daily tasks independently. Additionally, it offers a motivating environment for patients to practice and enhance their motor skills.

Types of VR systems used in rehabilitation

The two main types of VR systems used in rehabilitation programs are:

  • Multisensory High-End Systems provide immersive and multisensory experiences, often incorporating advanced technologies such as motion sensors, haptic feedback, and high-resolution displays. These systems are designed to engage patients in highly realistic and interactive environments, enhancing the rehabilitation process.
  • Game-Based VR Systems are designed to be more accessible and cost-effective, utilizing game-like interfaces and mechanics to make rehabilitation more enjoyable and engaging. They are commonly used for motor and functional rehabilitation, particularly for upper-extremity injuries and diseases.

Examples of VR rehabilitation tools

The following VR tools have become leading innovators in the application of VR in the rehabilitation process of various conditions:

The REAL System

The REAL System is a virtual reality rehabilitation tool designed to assist patients with stroke and other brain injuries in enhancing their motor and cognitive skills. It is a portable, wireless system that utilizes electromagnetic sensors to track patient movements. This enables therapists to oversee and guide sessions remotely. The system comprises a VR headset, sensors, and a tablet with the TherapyView app, which aids therapists in customizing and monitoring patient progress.

In contrast to traditional VR systems which rely on optical sensors, REAL uses highly precise electromagnetic sensors that do not necessitate ‘line of sight’ tracking. This feature allows therapists to move freely around the patient without interrupting the session. Therapists can modify settings in the TherapyView app to personalize the experience according to each patient’s needs, ensuring a more effective and engaging therapy session.

By transporting patients to a virtual world where they can interact with their avatars, the system enables them to perform exercises that may not be feasible in the physical world. This immersive experience assists in the brain’s reorganization by establishing new neural connections. REAL offers a range of activities, including games, puzzles, and tasks that enhance motor learning, cognitive function, memory, and relaxation. Data from patient movements during sessions is securely stored by the system, facilitating easy documentation and long-term tracking to guide patient recovery. The REAL System is cost-effective, featuring a monthly subscription that covers training and support, making it accessible to multiple patients.

The REAL System caters to various therapeutic areas and applications. For upper body rehabilitation, exercises focus on shoulder range of motion, flexion, endurance, strengthening, and mirror therapy. Lower body rehabilitation activities encompass hip abduction, adduction, flexion, extension, knee flexion and extension, reactive movement, and sustained attention. Additionally, the system offers relaxation therapy, cognitive activation, distraction therapy, reminiscence therapy, and mindfulness therapy.

It is worth noting that the REAL System is FDA-cleared for use in rehabilitation settings.

Virtualis

Virtualis VR offers free-roam VR experiences that utilize the latest technology to deliver highly immersive and realistic virtual environments. Their systems feature full-body tracking, 4D effects such as wind and heat, and haptic feedback to create a genuinely immersive experience.

Virtualis VR overview

In the healthcare sector, Virtualis VR provides VR-based assessment and rehabilitation solutions for a wide range of conditions, including vestibular/balance disorders, concussions, orthopedic issues, neurological conditions, and more. These solutions are crafted by healthcare professionals to optimize patient outcomes and enhance clinic productivity.

Some of Virtualis VR’s key healthcare offerings include:

  • MotionVR, a VR-enabled motion simulator that offers computerized dynamic posturography and balance assessment and rehabilitation.
  • They also provide StaticVR, which includes static force plate systems for posturography and rehabilitation with VR integration.
  • Additionally, they offer specialized VR software modules for vestibular, concussion, orthopedic, and other clinical applications.

Virtualis VR has a global presence, with over 500 clinics using their solutions across numerous countries. They provide training and support to assist healthcare providers in effectively integrating VR technology into their practices.

Benefits of VR use in rehabilitation

  • Flexibility – VR enables a wide range of exercises and activities tailored to individual patient needs and progress, enhancing the rehabilitation process.
  • Patient Education and Motivation – VR provides engaging and interactive experiences that boost patient motivation and participation, leading to improved outcomes.
  • Variability – VR exercises can be adjusted based on a patient’s baseline, ensuring a consistent and challenging experience that adapts to their progress.
  • Transparency in Data Storage and Accessibility – VR systems offer real-time data access and transparent data storage, enabling healthcare professionals to effectively monitor patient progress.
  • Increased Accessibility – VR rehabilitation can be conducted remotely, making it more accessible to patients with mobility issues or those living in rural areas.
  • Reduced Medical Costs – VR rehabilitation can lower healthcare costs by minimizing the need for physical therapy equipment and reducing the time spent on treatments.
  • Better Resource Utilization – VR rehabilitation optimizes resource allocation by allowing for more efficient use of healthcare facilities and staff.
  • Improved Patient Engagement – VR offers a safe and immersive environment for patients to practice exercises, enhancing their overall experience and engagement in the rehabilitation process.

Challenges of implementing VR in rehabilitation

  • Replacing Real-Life Physical Interactions – VR excels in simulating movements but falls short of fully replicating the intricate nature of real-life physical interactions, such as fine motor skills and tactile sensations.
  • Transfer of Virtual Skills to Real Life – Rehabilitation aims to empower individuals to seamlessly reintegrate into their daily routines. However, the transition of skills acquired in virtual environments to actual situations may not always be smooth due to variations in context, sensory inputs, and the physical world.
  • Customization Challenges – Current VR technologies may struggle to offer the level of customization required for individualized rehabilitation programs, potentially overlooking the diverse needs and limitations of each client.
  • Technical Limitations – Delay between input and output devices, latency, and perceived distance in virtual environments compared to real situations can hinder the effectiveness of VR in assessing balance and rehabilitation.
  • Cost and Technical Skills – The cost and requirement for specialist technical skills can be barriers to the widespread adoption of VR in rehabilitation. The high cost of VR technology can limit its accessibility and adoption in rehabilitation settings.
  • Immersion and Compatibility Issues – Immersion issues and compatibility problems between devices can influence the quality of rehabilitation sessions and hinder their adoption.
  • Side Effects and Legal Issues – Users may experience side effects like dizziness, eye-stain and nausea from VR systems, which can impact the quality of rehabilitation and raise legal and ethical concerns.

Evidence for Effectiveness of VR in Rehabilitation

The effectiveness of VR in rehabilitation is well established, especially in stroke rehabilitation. However, more research is needed to fully comprehend its potential and to tackle the limitations and challenges linked to its use.

Several studies have shown the effectiveness of VR in stroke rehabilitation. For instance, a study utilizing VR-augmented rehabilitation therapy enhanced dual-task gait speeds and dual-task performance in chronic stroke patients. Another study indicated that VR therapy with the Armeo Spring upper limb exoskeleton was more effective in improving upper extremity motor performance compared to conventional physiotherapy. Furthermore, a systematic review of VR-based post-stroke interventions concluded that VR was either superior to or equal to conventional therapy in enhancing functional recovery.

For cerebral palsy, there is moderate evidence supporting the benefits of VR rehabilitation in improving balance and overall motor development in children and adolescents. VR has demonstrated promise as a technique for motor rehabilitation in this particular population.

In the realm of Parkinson’s disease (PD), VR has been investigated for rehabilitation purposes. Studies have highlighted that VR therapy can lead to increased benefits in stride/step length, balance, and neuropsychiatric symptoms in PD patients. However, the overall findings remain mixed, and the quality of evidence is inconsistent due to the limited number of high-quality systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

Conclusion

VR technology has shown significant promise in the field of rehabilitation. It offers a unique and engaging way to help patients recover from injuries and illnesses. By providing immersive and interactive experiences, VR can enhance the rehabilitation process, improve patient outcomes, and increase patient satisfaction.

As VR technology continues to evolve and become more accessible, we are likely to see even more innovative applications of VR in rehabilitation in the future.

Written By

Meet Zornitsa, our Content Manager, specializing in all things VR headsets and innovative VR use cases. With a passion for exploring the latest in virtual reality technology, Zornitsa is your trusted source for expert insights and informative content that will elevate your VR experience.

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