Technology and Therapy: Virtual Reality Drives a New Age of Recovery

GA-Logo-no-wordsPhysical therapists are among those health care professionals leading the way to integrating technology and treatment – introducing an increasingly popular high-tech method that uses virtual reality and interactive video games.

Companies such as Respondesign and Reflexion Health, for example, are creating new programs aimed at improving motion and adherence – particularly for elderly patients with mobility issues – through interactive platforms designed for physical therapy facilities and homes.

Interactive “games” help physical therapists track their patients’ daily progress, and fitness regimens.

Virtual reality platforms – used in conduction with traditional physical therapy – can help patients recover from a number of health issues and strengthen muscle movement, which improves fitness levels and controls pain management.

Innovators are looking to use gaming devices such as the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft’s Kinect to introduce new programs that provide educational materials and personalized recovery plans.

Patients record their exercises and review their session with their physical therapists to help enhance their individualized treatment, and PTs can also remotely monitor progress.

Early studies of this new treatment method have already shown significant results.

Among stroke patients playing video game systems, a recent study by the University of Toronto found a 14.7 percent improvement, on average, in patients’ grip strength and a 20 percent improvement in their ability to perform standard tasks.

The study also showed not only did these games add fun to the therapy – but they also sped-up the healing process of key muscles.

Virtual reality platforms can also help physical therapists oversee more patients. A patient can merely turn on the program and follow the plan created by their therapist.

But while this new technology may offer an alternative to standard exercises and rehabilitative therapies, it is designed to use alongside – not replace – traditional physical therapy.

Interested in learning more? Read about physical therapy and the use of virtual reality in this recent article from MedCity News, “Fitness Video Games Using Avatars to Improve Physical Therapy Adherence.”


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