Physical therapy has long been an excellent way of healing and warding off injury, making it the perfect rehabilitation method for people who are trying to recover from physical injuries, most notably athletes and heavy workers.
Conventional physical therapy works similar to extensive workout, where the muscles and problematic areas are strengthened in order to perform better. It usually consists of different types of stretching, resistance, aerobic, and pain-relief activities.
A New Type of Physical Therapy
These past few years, advancements in Virtual Reality technology have found different applications in the medical field, and one of these applications is in physical therapy. One of the more recent and popular examples is called the Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment, which was started by Dr. Lev Kalika of the New York Dynamic Neuromuscular Rehabilitation & Physical Therapy.
The Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment is geared towards people suffering fromback pain, neuro, ortho, sports med, and walking disorders. VR in this case helps immensely as it speeds up the learning process in both virtual and real environments, due to the ability to endlessly and instantly manipulate data from within the virtual world. While not a complete replacement for conventional physical therapy, VR in this case complements greatly as it allows patients to start learning new movement strategies within a simulated environment, even if their actual muscles are still not ready. This could make therapy that much easier to adapt to, as it eases patients into the process as opposed to forcing them to deal with their nonresponsive motor functions immediately.
Effective and Fun
Virtual Reality based physical therapy systems also have the added benefit of being fun. A therapy can be programmed into a game, by using simulated fantasy environments or simply by adding game-like mechanics, such as scorekeeping. This will help prevent patients from being bored with the treatment, and in cases of children, may even make them excited and determined to continue until the program is done.
It has also been posited that due to VR’s ability to engage users’ visual faculties, physical therapy can go far beyond addressing the muscles and joints – it can also help improve a patient’s cognitive abilities. This makes Virtual Reality-based physical therapy useful not just for people struggling with arthritis, joint replacement, amputation, bone injuries, and whiplash, it may also be adapted for rehabilitating people with neurological disorders, though this area still requires further study and more specific VR programs.