When you hear of virtual reality, what do you think of? Flight simulators? “The Matrix” movies? People in goggles waving their arms through the air?
Do you think of FYZICAL Therapy and Balance Centers - Forest Grove? You should, because we are bringing Virtualis, a virtual reality (VR) simulator, to Forest Grove.
Virtual Reality for Physical Therapy?
VR is not just a fancy toy for tech enthusiasts or gamers. The technology is being used in healthcare for the treatment of PTSD, traumatic brain injury, social anxieties, and chronic pain.
The founder of Virtualis, Franck Assaban, is a physical therapist and has designed programs with physical and occupational therapy testing and treatment in mind, including:
- Balance VR: For improving balance difficulties, motion sensitivities such as motion sickness, or vertigo
- Functional VR: For encouraging practical movements such as reaching, squatting, or opening and closing a hand.
What is Virtual Reality Exactly?
VR is a 3D computer program that is viewed through the goggles you wear. These goggles shut out the view of the real world to make you feel as if you are immersed in the computer simulation or the “virtual world.” You can look around and explore all directions and interact with objects within the program.
For example, you could appear to be standing on a boat. You turn your head and the view of the boat adjusts to the railing to your left. You look up, you see the clouds moving and maybe a bird flying by.
Or you could appear to be in a grocery store and reach for items on the shelves with a right arm that is weak after a stroke.
Or maybe your physical therapist has you perform a standard exercise like a squat, with the program providing feedback when you’ve reached the full motion.
Your physical therapist helps to determine the best program for you and VR puts you safely in these scenarios to help you achieve your goals.
Why is VR helpful?
For some problems such as motion sensitivity, repeat stimulation is needed to make improvements, but putting someone on a boat three times a week, or having someone drive a car while feeling lightheaded might not be realistic or safe.
And the intensity levels of these tasks, like the size of the waves, can be controlled by your therapist. The VR simulation gives you and your therapist the control to make your training safe and practical.
After a stroke or brain injury, a limb may be weak, or a condition may be present called neglect — in which a person no longer recognizes a side of their body as their own. Virtualis has programs to help to address these.
Some of the programs are simply game-like or task-oriented and this can help distract you from the work involved, so you practice more than you might without it. Similar to when you listen to your favorite music to clean the house or to motivate you on your run.
More to Come About Virtualis
This is just a glimpse into what we plan to do with Virtualis at FYZICAL - Forest Grove and we can’t wait to show it off. We’ve also purchased a platform that connects to the Virtualis system for testing and treatment, a topic that will be covered in upcoming posts.
The Balance Center is still coming together, so stay tuned for when it is available for your PT treatment. In the meantime, stay connected with us on Facebook and Twitter about Virtualis.
Know someone who might find this interesting? Share the link to this post via Facebook, Twitter, or email firstname.lastname@example.org today. We’d love to spread the word about this great technology coming to the area.
By Beth Jennings a freelance writer and physical therapist
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Rizzo, A., Cukor, J., Gerardi, M. et al. Virtual Reality Exposure for PTSD Due to Military Combat and Terrorist Attacks. J Contemp Psychother 45, 255–264 (2015).
Subramanian, S., Knaut, L. A., Beaudoin, C., & Levin, M. F. (2007). Enhanced feedback during training in virtual versus real world environments. In 2007
Virtual Rehabilitation, Venice, Italy (pp. 8–13). Piscataway, NJ