Virtual Reality Rehabilitation

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Virtual reality technology is becoming more and more common in rehabilitation, transporting patients far beyond the four walls of the gym and supporting them with new and exciting training programmes. Imagine walking through a forest on a path which winds left to right, and up and down, while learning to walk again. You are safely supported by a harness, so if you fall or become unstable, you will be prevented from hurting yourself. You could also walk around a cityscape with all the challenges you would typically encounter, or perhaps steer a boat around obstacles to train your balance.

Summit Medical and Scientific supplies innovative and unique rehabilitation systems in the UK from their partners at Motek. Founded over 20 years ago, they work with charities such as The Brain and Spinal Injury Centre (BASIC) in Salford, hospitals, clinics, football clubs and universities for the assessment and training of balance and gait. They are also installing one of their systems at the new Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre in Stanford Hall next year.

The virtual reality technology they provide, developed by companies like Motek, means that rehabilitation centres are developing personalised training programmes which enable patients to make faster progress when working on their balance or walking in real-world situations. For example, patients using the Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment (CAREN) can stand or move on an instrumented treadmill mounted on a motion base which can pitch, sway, roll and move up and down. Cameras capture the patient’s movement while they are surrounded by a screen showing different virtual environments. The data is collected in software to provide measurement and feedback of the patient’s walking or balance in real time.

Therapists can adjust the patient’s gait, monitor the immediate effects, and generate reports, all with just a few easy clicks. Additionally, systems like the CAREN, the Gait Real Time Interactive Lab (GRAIL), and the C-Mill (an instrumented treadmill with virtual and augmented reality) fulfil the five key recommendations included in clinical guidelines for rehabilitation of impaired gait and balance: start early, train often, train with variety, practice day to day tasks and monitor progress. Using systems with optional bodyweight support like the C-Mill means that rehabilitation can start early, even before patients can support themselves.

The combination of three key things will challenge your patients to achieve set goals and overcome any fear of moving around in the real world: immersion within a virtual reality environment; the games and challenges played; and the replication of “real-life” situations within a safe and controlled environment using training applications. Patients have said how engaging and motivating they find this new type of rehabilitation – it’s fun!

If you would like to find out more about Summit Medical and Scientific and their products, please visit their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You are also welcome to contact Sara Brammall, Managing Director, via email: sara.brammall@summitmedsci.co.uk.

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Content and images as provided by Jenny Brammall, Marketing & Communications Manager at Summit Medical Scientific.