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3 Ways VR is Innovating Rehab

How Virtual Reality Supports Recovery at Marianjoy

Therapists in physical medicine and rehabilitation are making use of new advancements in technology, particularly virtual reality (VR). At Northwestern Medicine Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, VR technology has allowed therapists to translate rehabilitative exercises into real-world situations for patients.

“VR therapy can be used as a supplement to traditional therapies, keeping patients engaged and motivated,” says Elliot Cohee, a physical therapist at Marianjoy. “Patients concentrate more and try harder to reach their goals. We can adjust the difficulty level based on each patient’s individual ability, goals and progress.”

Here are 3 ways the physical therapists at Marianjoy use VR to improve patient care.

1. To Simulate Everyday Environments

One of the virtual reality devices Marianjoy utilizes is called the IREX®, which is a virtual reality system that immerses patients into simulated sport, gaming or everyday environments. Any patient who is experiencing balance or coordination deficits may benefit from the interactive IREX system, which helps patients improve their strength, overall conditioning, and endurance.

2. To Diagnose and Treat Dizziness

Another device, the Bertec Balance Advantage™ System, is used to diagnosis and treat patients who are experiencing balance or dizziness issues, commonly resulting from conditions such as brain injury, stroke, or vestibular disorders. With real-time assessment information, therapists can customize various controls at any time, such as surface movement, support, and visual movement. These tests indicate where a patient’s sensory and motor systems need improvement, as well as what real-life situations might be challenging.

3. To Retrain the Body’s Natural Mobility

Two similar, yet specialized, virtual reality devices are the Armeo®Spring, for mild to moderate impairment, and the Armeo®Power, for more severe impairment. These upper-body exoskeleton mechanisms simulate real-world scenarios, like grocery shopping, while assisting arm movement to train (or retrain) the body’s natural mobility. Armeo® is also diagnostic and allows therapists to decrease assistance when the patient improves.

Virtual reality has become a valuable assistant for therapists at Marianjoy, enabling them to hone exercises for the most efficient practices for each patient’s successful rehabilitation.

“Our patients enjoy these exciting and stimulating new techniques, and they’re making a real impact on recovery,” says Cohee.

Marianjoy is known for having the most advanced rehabilitative technology, and they have recently opened a wing for neurological therapy and equipment, the Tellabs Center for Neurorehabilitation and Neuroplasticity (TCNN). In 2014, the hospital also opened its Marianjoy Assistive Rehabilitation Technology Institute (MARTI), a center that boasts technology for a variety of therapies treating daily living needs, physical strengthening, and more.

Learn more about Marianjoy and call 630.909.8000 to make an appointment or see how Marianjoy could help you.