There are new treatment methods using the promising technology of Virtual Reality (VR) for physical therapists who work with stroke patients. The American Physical Therapy Journal recently published an article that gives a comprehensive review of 21 studies that measure gait and stability movements when using VR treatments.
The studies found that using VR training in addition to conventional therapy results in improved functional outcomes compared with conventional therapy alone using measures; gait speed, Berg Balance Scale, and Timed “Up & go” Test. The effectiveness of video game platforms as well as treatments involving walking on a treadmill while wearing a Head Mounted Device (HMD) with custom visualizations were also examined.
The authors cite four reasons why VR treatments improve stroke rehab outcomes.
- Virtual reality creates patient specific motor training with a high level of repetitive and variable training. The more repetition the better results.
- Variability in practice is important for motor learning because this leads to improvement in the ability to adapt to novel situations.
- Visual feedback provided by VR may contribute to improved balanced and gait.
- VR provides improved motivation and enjoyment which positively impacts the completion of training and to decrease the perception of exertion.
While the authors recommend future studies to investigate the effect of VR on participation level with large sample sizes and an adequate follow-up period, you don’t need a study to tell you that VR is pretty fun to play with.