Although virtual reality made its debut in the entertainment industry, it has recently become a major component of medicine. The use of immersive, computer-generated technology has completely changed the healthcare system and allowed patients to get immediate and optimized treatment right from the comfort of their homes.
From alleviating anxiety and PTSD symptoms to performing virtual surgeries, there are numerous applications of virtual reality in medicine.
A healthcare department where VR has proven to be very helpful is physical therapy. This is a great option especially for those people who struggle with a disability that prevents them from getting proper treatment in a traditional hospital. Through the various virtual reality physical therapy interventions, people can get in touch with experienced therapists who will help them choose a program to improve specific skills and target individual problems.
To find out more about the use of VR in physical therapy, here is a brief guide that elaborates on the basics of this tech advancement in the PT department.
How VRPT works
Before we delve into which health conditions can be treated using virtual reality, it is important that you first understand how this computer-generated technology works.
The VR headset
First, the treatments are done using a VR headset that provides patients with a more complete immersion in the virtual world. The device features gyroscopic sensors, accelerometers and magnetometers that track the patient’s interactions in the virtual space and determine how they move while doing an exercise.
Depending on the condition you are treating, you will be placed in a virtual setting which will distract your brain from the pain you are feeling while providing you with a therapeutic, calming effect.
The virtual therapist
The virtual settings and programs are assigned by a therapist who specializes in the area you are looking to treat. The therapist will give you instructions before you start your therapy and even virtually join you to provide you with firsthand guidance. They will track your progress as you go and change your treatments if necessary.
That’s why it is important that you find a highly qualified and well-experienced VR therapist who can help you overcome your disabilities or dysfunctions easily and successfully.
But you need to make sure that you’ve created a suitable home environment to do your VR physical therapy by removing any furniture or other objects so you don’t hurt yourself during your sessions.
Conditions treated by VRPT
Virtual reality therapy combined with physical therapy can be used to treat the following conditions:
- Parkinson’s disease which is a neurological disorder that manifests through shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with walking, balance and coordination
- Stroke which also is characterized by difficulties with walking, loss of balance, and paralysis or numbness of the face, arms or legs
- Chronic pain symptoms in the joints, knees, neck, and back
- Injuries after surgeries
Benefits of VRPT
Virtual reality used in combination with physical therapy offers people numerous benefits. Here is a brief explanation of the most notable ones.
People who suffer from a disability or dysfunction are often prevented from physically going to a hospital to get treatment for their condition. However, with the help of their VR headset, they can get treatment in real-time from the comfort and safety of their home and receive instructions from a highly qualified medical professional.
Improved engagement and motivation
When people suffer from chronic pain and do physical therapy in a hospital setting, their mind is usually focused on the pain they are feeling rather than on the treatment. However, once they are placed in a virtual setting, they will become more engaged in the immersive world to the point that they will soon be diverted from the pain they are feeling.
Better mobility, balance and endurance
The whole point of the virtual reality physical therapy interventions is to engage patients in physical activities and exercises that will improve their motor skills, mobility, and balance. This will further help teach them how to deal with the pain symptoms they are suffering from.
It seems like virtual reality is slowly, but surely making its way into the healthcare industry. The immersive technology has proven to be effective in many departments with the physical therapy and rehabilitation sector being the most popular one. This makes it ideal for those patients who suffer from chronic pain, disabilities or want to recover from an injury quickly and with ease.
In case you are new to this technological advancement in medicine, make sure you keep our post nearby to learn about the basics of virtual reality in physical therapy.
Man with VR headset by Ivan Samkov from Pexels
Woman with VR headset by Christine Sandu from Unsplash
Vicky is a Food & Lifestyle Blogger at AvocadoPesto, where she specializes in healthy living and cooking. She is also a world traveler and has visited over 60 countries.