• Jaieyre Lewis

How Virtual Reality will change rehabilitation and mobility for stroke patients

The Challenge of Stroke A loss of blood flow to part of the brain is the definition of a stroke. While treating it is straightforward, complications oiften arise that pose a challenge to allied health and medical professionals. In the aftermath, patients are often limited in their mobility. Common symptoms include weakness/paralysis, changes in muscle structure (tight or lose), heightened or lack of sensitivity, pain etc. Not only that, but mental health, sleep, concentration, motivation, and memory all can suffer as well.

Methods of improving the recovery process are continually being explored however, one tool that has recently gained popularity is virtual reality (VR). VR may soon be a preferred method of treating such illnesses due to its ability to be engaging, track mobility data and its special effects on the brain and learning. Here are some details that will help you to understand why some allied health professionals are counting on it.

What the Research Says

The results of a 2015 study offer hope for patients recovering from a stroke (Corbetta, Imeri and Gatti, 2015).

The study involved 15 trials and 341 participants, all of whom were stroke victims during recovery.

Researchers divided participants into two groups: one received traditional rehabilitation while the other received VR-based rehabilitation. They specifically measured how well patients were able to regain their walking ability. In order to determine whether a patient was recovering effectively, they used metrics like walking speed and posture. Virtual reality rehabilitation consisted of either showing videos through VR headsets or placing patients in simulated environments as they performed basic exercises, such as walking.

In analysis of the data at the end of the study, researchers learned that utilizing VR in rehabilitation resulted in a statistically significant improvement in "walking speed, balance, and mobility." In addition, the researchers discovered that VR intervention costs are low enough to justify their inclusion given the positive impact they offer. VR will become a more common tool in these settings in the near future.

Interaction is Essential

It is crucial to engage with a patient when they recover from a stroke. Both mentally and physically. It is part of what is known as effective rehabilitation. In fact, through ‘gamification’ of the entire experience, doctors can reduce recovery times and increase mobility (Virtual rehab: How gamification can help stroke recovery, 2019). This study shows that “Physical exercise is undoubtedly important but doing so in a simple and non-stimulating environment may limit its potential in improving cognition.” This only supports the use of VR as it allows physicians to stimulate the mind and body (Dhami, Moreno and DeSouza, 2015) Making rehabilitation fun is a challenge. After research and consultation with allied health professionals and stroke patients, most comment that it is extremely boring, mundane physical movements that need to be repeated over and over again to show progress.

The Future

VR technology has the potential to improve mobility in stroke patients, more research is coming out every day supporting its amazing novel treatment characteristics. The fact that VR games might help patients recover from stroke more effectively shouldn't be taken lightly. It won't be long before VR based rehabilitation replaces traditional methods or works alongside them in tandem.


Dhami, P., Moreno, S. and DeSouza, J., 2015. New framework for rehabilitation – fusion of cognitive and physical rehabilitation: the hope for dancing. Frontiers in Psychology, 5.

Tectales.com. 2019. Virtual rehab: How gamification can help stroke recovery. [online] Available at: <https://tectales.com/ar-vr/virtual-rehab-how-gamification-can-help-stroke-recovery.html> [Accessed 24 June 2022].

Corbetta, D., Imeri, F. and Gatti, R., 2015. Rehabilitation that incorporates virtual reality is more effective than standard rehabilitation for improving walking speed, balance and mobility after stroke: a systematic review. Journal of Physiotherapy, 61(3), pp.117-124.

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