Benefits of Virtual Reality for Stroke
March 3, 2023 by Steve Kerschke, PT
Every 40 seconds, someone in the US has a stroke. While it’s a somewhat common (and unfortunate) occurrence, recent developments in stroke rehabilitation have members of our community rejoicing.
The news? Virtual reality may be the key to successful rehabilitation and recovery. VR allows us to simulate real-world scenarios and create engaging games and exercises catered to personalized recovery needs. It can also make overcoming a stroke a more enjoyable experience.
Let’s explore the benefits of virtual reality for stroke rehabilitation and how virtual reality can help play an important role in aiding your recovery journey.
What Is Traditional Stroke Rehabilitation?
Before we dive into the benefits of virtual reality for stroke rehabilitation, it’s helpful to know what traditional types of rehabilitation look like. Traditional stroke rehabilitation typically includes the following clinical treatments:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
Why these three types of therapies? This combination of therapies has proven to be effective in helping stroke survivors regain the functions of the body affected by the stroke. Each one helps with a different function.
Physical therapy focuses on relearning and rebuilding strength. It also improves coordination, balance, and mobility. Occupational therapy helps stroke survivors with the skills needed for daily living. This includes tasks like grooming, cooking, and getting dressed. Speech therapy assists stroke patients in being able to communicate better. It can also help with swallowing.
It’s about more than the functions, though. Rehabilitation also helps stroke survivors build self-confidence as they navigate their recovery. However, as we live in a digital world, not all stroke rehabilitation has to occur in person these days.
What About Online Stroke Rehab?
Online stroke rehabilitation has revolutionized the way people access care. Using online technology, stroke patients can now access personalized care from their homes. This is incredibly helpful for those who don’t live near a great rehab center.
What does online stroke rehab look like, though? It could include the following:
- One-to-one consultations with specialist doctors and rehab experts
- Online educational programs
- Online support groups to help rebuild independence post-stroke
By using online resources, those affected can overcome boundaries such as physical distance or limited mobility when accessing medical services. Studies have found online stroke rehabilitation to be highly beneficial in helping to improve functionality and quality of life. It can be a lifesaver for many who otherwise may not have been able to get access to specialized care.
VR: Types of Rehab
What are some of the benefits of integrating virtual reality into stroke rehabilitation? There are plenty, but first, let’s explore the two types of VR stroke rehabilitation.
This is what you might think of when you think of virtual reality services. You know, the kind where you put on goggles or headgear. Overall, immersive VR rehab is an innovative way to aid rehabilitation and recovery. Through immersive virtual reality technology, users can experience a realistically constructed environment while they undergo treatment.
By wearing equipment such as goggles, gloves, and interactive displays, you can gain a greater sense of presence as you progress through the VR program. This immersive system helps you fully experience in the virtual world as you recover.
Wearing goggles or VR headsets isn’t for everybody. Sometimes, non-immersive VR rehab is best. In non-immersive VR rehab, a patient may be in a two-dimensional setting while they view information through a computer screen. It’s similar to teletherapy but with the ability to engage with activities on the screen.
What might non-immersive VR rehab look like? Well, in the case of stroke rehab, forming new neural connections is key. It helps the brain to “re-program” itself as you work to recover motor skills. Incorporating VR into this rehab type could be beneficial as you can view on-screen images that boost your confidence in your abilities.
The Benefits of Virtual Reality for Stroke Rehabilitation
We know that incorporating virtual reality into rehab can help stroke patients recover. It’s also a great way to offer remote services to patients nationwide. However, there are some other benefits of virtual reality for stroke rehabilitation. Here are some perks of this type of rehab.
Virtual Reality for stroke rehabilitation offers greater flexibility than traditional treatment. With this type of rehab, providers can tailor each program to meet the patient’s needs.
For example, as you move through the program, they could create a virtual reality world similar to your daily life. This can help you practice real-life skills in a natural setting and help set you up for success. After all, someone who needs to learn how to move their upper limbs again will need different therapies than someone whose main focus is regaining full movement of their mouth.
Overall, VR stroke rehab can effectively allow stroke survivors to regain mobility and strength while providing comfort in a natural setting. It might not seem like a big deal, but that comfort can go a long way. It leads to a more personalized treatment plan, too.
Engagement and Motivation
Recovering from a stroke has a lot to do with relearning old or learning new skills. VR provides therapeutic opportunities in a variety of visual and auditory environments.
With these exercises, new neural pathways can be formed to help regain language skills and rebuild basic motor functions. Additionally, VR allows you to practice repetitive tasks in a much more engaging environment. Imagine practicing reaching for a cup on a VR beach bar in Aruba. That’s much more exciting and encouraging than doing it in your doctor’s office.
Overall, this increases motivation levels and helps with successful and quicker rehabilitation.
Lastly, this type of rehab can help you build your self-confidence. We understand how important this is for stroke survivors. You may wonder how it helps you with your confidence levels.
VR can help you practice necessary exercises without fear of judgment or injury by providing a safe and supportive environment. By stimulating and encouraging you to complete tasks that may be difficult in the real world, you’ll gain self-confidence through achievement that leads to progress.
These improvements in self-esteem go beyond increasing physical abilities, though. Overcoming challenges helps you form a positive self-image attitude. As such, investing in VR for stroke rehabilitation can be an invaluable tool.
Get Virtual Rehab Services
The benefits of virtual reality for stroke rehabilitation show us how technology can impact our well-being. With each new advancement, we get closer to understanding how to improve health outcomes through new treatment methods.
At Kintinu, we offer virtual rehab and therapy services. Whether you’re recovering from a stroke or are interested in teletherapy, we can help. Contact us today to chat about our services and your needs. We’re here to help you through it all.