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Virtual Reality Therapy and Rehabilitation: Revolutionizing Healthcare

Updated: Feb 6

Today, technology has become an increasingly present aspect of our everyday lives and continues to grow, expand, and change how people live. It has also dramatically changed the landscapes of health, fitness, sleep, nutrition, relaxation, and so many more areas of health as we know it. As innovation continues and will continue, newer and more sophisticated devices aid people in many areas of life, including healthcare. From wearable health and fitness trackers to sports performance equipment to advanced diagnostic testing technology to virtual reality rehabilitation devices, the health industry has modernized, offering newer, safer, and more effective therapies and technologies that are transforming people's health and lives better than ever. 


Table of Contents:


The Better Brain & Body Approach

Dr. Alicia Brown, owner and founder of Better Brain & Body, is always on the lookout for emerging and cutting-edge medical technologies that can aid her patients in their treatments and enhance their lives. A human optimization center and functional neurology clinic, her practice has developed around optimizing various facets of human health using innovative technologies, therapies, and her expertise. Based in Charlotte, NC, Better Brain & Body is at the forefront of providing advanced, holistic technologies and therapies that boost brain-to-body health and treat various medical conditions. 


Virtual Reality & Healthcare

One exciting area of innovative healthcare technology that Dr. Brown has been interested in is virtual reality (VR), and she’s not alone. Many experts from different fields, such as mental health, pain management, sports performance, vestibular rehabilitation, and more, have been studying virtual reality treatments' effects and value on their patients. Often known for its entertainment and video gaming purposes, virtual reality is an exciting technology that is now being used in traditional healthcare and therapy settings worldwide, showing off many skills, including advanced diagnostic testing capabilities and providing more efficient, effective, immersive, and informative treatments for various medical conditions and health purposes. It is important not to confuse virtual reality therapy with telehealth, which is using the internet to connect online with your doctor or therapist.


Transforming Patient Experience

VR is a highly advanced technology that is changing the healthcare landscape in many ways, providing new patient treatment experiences, better treatment outcomes, better patient engagement, and greater patient treatment satisfaction (Pandrangi, 2019). What’s more, patients are seeing increased levels of motivation and have less anxiety or fear during treatments. Virtual reality has many practical applications for treating varying medical conditions depending on the device used, and it can be a great supplemental tool to add to a patient’s therapy toolkit.


We are excited to announce that the Better Brain & Body team will welcome our newest therapy: The Virtualis Motion VR Rehabilitation device.

Man on Virtualis VR rehabilitation device.

In today’s blog, we will outline how the Virtualis Motion VR Rehabilitation device works, its benefits to patients, the conditions it can address, the diagnostic testing it provides, and how virtual reality therapy dramatically enhances healthcare treatments.


What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality, as seen in the pictures in this blog, is a device that provides someone with an immersive, technology-generated experience that simulates a person’s physical presence in a virtual world.

A man using a virtual reality device.

This involves tricking your brain into believing

you are somewhere else when your physical body is still in your real environment. VR devices are used for many purposes, including video games, entertainment, training and education, business and engineering, and now healthcare.


What is the Virtualis Motion VR Device?

Virtualis Motion VR is a state-of-the-art virtual reality medical device designed for rehabilitation, diagnostic testing, and overall health optimization. The device has a headset with handles that are held in each hand. A steering wheel component is also used specifically for Motion Sickness Treatment, simulating a virtual driving experience designed to help you overcome and manage motion sickness.


Some Virtualis devices also have what's called Motion VR, which includes a motion force plate that a person stands on during their treatment, as pictured above. The motion plate has various beneficial purposes and rehabilitation capabilities that can be tailored and customized to enhance a patient's experience using Virtualis Motion VR. Better Brain & Body is proudly the first provider of Virtualis Motion VR in North Carolina. We are excited to bring this extraordinary medical device to the Charlotte area to give patients an innovative and effective avenue to approach health and healing.


Rehabilitation

Virtual reality therapy provides a unique approach to rehabilitation, offering many exercises, playful virtual environments, and brain-directed treatments that help a person’s brain and body adapt during their healing or rehabilitation journey. Today, physical therapy and physical rehabilitation are the common healing and recovery tools for overcoming or managing a vast range of injuries or conditions. These methods often focus on rebuilding muscle and restoring physical function or mobility. But with Virtualis Motion VR, we can dive deeper, mend the body, and rewire the brain, unlocking a holistic healing experience for the brain and body using innovative technology.


A patient undergoes a Virtualis VR treatment with her doctor.

Oftentimes, if it's not physical therapy, patients may turn to pain medications. While beneficial in some instances, these medications can have devastating consequences on individuals and families if their use becomes habitual or addictive. Today, more and more people are opting for more holistic and natural approaches to managing underlying pain. Chiropractic, exercise, yoga, doing something fun, a massage, and other activities release dopamine (the feel-good chemical) in the brain and other "feel-good" chemicals called endorphins. Inside every person's body are endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. Take acute and chronic pain patients as examples. When a pain patient is immersed in a virtual reality therapy treatment with Virtualis Motion VR, they focus on the experience rather than the pain because dopamine and endorphins flood in, blocking pain signals. Dr. Brennan Spiegel, Director of Health Services Research at Cedars-Sinai Health System, said, “When we first started using VR, we found that over 80% of our patients found it positive or beneficial,” concerning his patients who suffer from acute and chronic pain.


Virtual Reality Therapy: Cognitive Rehabilitation

Virtualis Motion VR will be a handy tool for cognitive rehabilitation. With Virtualis, we can tailor a patient's virtual therapeutic experience to reflect any number of environments and set up the therapy in an engaging format that aligns best with the goals the patient wants to achieve and the condition they may be trying to address. Take TBIs and concussions. Better Brain & Body is known for its extensive rehabilitation and optimization protocols for these conditions. Virtualis Motion VR has many therapeutic applications for cognitive rehabilitation for TBIs and concussions that will only add to the diversity of treatments offered at our clinic for these conditions. Now, our team can use Virtualis in addition to other brain-directed therapies, optimizing treatment success and patient treatment experience for various conditions: TBI, Concussion, Stroke, Neurodegenerative Diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, and Neurodevelopmental Disorders such as ADHD, and much more. Better Brain & Body is excited to start offering virtual reality therapy, giving our patients an extra holistic avenue of treatment that will only enhance their recovery and rehabilitation journeys.


Advanced Diagnostic Testing

Beyond its rehabilitation capabilities, Virtualis Motion VR doubles as a diagnostic testing device. Its dynamic virtual environments and precise movement tracking capabilities offer a uniquely holistic assessment of motor function and brain-to-body communication. It provides a wide range of diagnostic assessments and uses a motion force plate that a person stands on, helping to obtain various diagnostic results. Virtualis Motion VR can accurately assess balance and posture, providing informative real-time graphics that help physicians and patients alike. This device can also perform a sensory organization test, which measures a person's ability to use visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive signals to maintain balance. Overall, this new technology will allow our team at Better Brain & Body an extra resource for diagnostic and preventative testing to help identify subtle motor deficits, pinpoint areas of dysfunction, and guide the development of personalized treatment plans.


All in One Device: Rehabilitation & Diagnostics

Virtualis isn't just fancy goggles and games; it's a rehabilitative and diagnostic powerhouse of a medical device disguised as a virtual playground. This cutting-edge technology understands that recovery isn't always just about repairing the physical; it's about rewiring the brain's ability to control and optimize movement. Virtualis is essentially a virtual gym for your brain and body. Its diagnostic testing is your trainer, showing you areas of dysfunction and potential improvement. Then, its rehabilitation abilities help you work towards optimizing your brain and body, as is done when we get in a workout at the gym.


Rehabilitation & Medical Applications: 

A patient uses Virtualis VR and stands on the motion plate.

Neurological Conditions:

  • Stroke

  • Spinal Cord Injuries

  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

  • Parkinson's Disease

  • TBI and Concussions

  • Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, MS, Ataxia ...

  • Hemiplegia from a stroke, CPT, a fall...

  • Hemineglect

  • Para/tetraplegia

  • Rehabilitation for ADLs  (Activities of Daily Living)

Musculoskeletal:


Vestibular and Balance Rehab: 

  • PPPD (Persistent Postural Perceptual Dizziness)

  • Vestibular asymmetry (Neuritis - DVU))

  • Vestibular Neurotomy (Chemical or Surgical)

  • Post-BPPV Rehabilitation

  • Meniere's Syndrome

  • Multifactorial instability

  • Motion Sickness

  • Scrolling Syndrome

  • Bilateral Vestibular Deficiency

Other Applications: 


At Better Brain & Body, we utilize many cutting-edge therapies and technologies to enhance healing for various conditions and improve overall brain-to-body performance. Virtualis Motion VR will not replace our other helpful therapies and diagnostic testing equipment but will be used alongside them as an additional tool at Dr. Brown's direction. 

A person engages in a Virtualis VR therapy treatment.

How Does Virtualis Virtual Reality (VR) Therapy Work?


1.Immersion and Engagement:

  • Virtual reality therapy creates engaging, interactive environments that motivate patients and make therapy more enjoyable, leading to better adherence and potentially faster progress. Think of scaling mountains for physical therapy or playing virtual games to improve cognitive function.

  • Reduced focus on discomfort: Immersing yourself in a virtual world can distract you from pain or discomfort, making otherwise challenging exercises more tolerable and potentially improving treatment outcomes.


2. Specificity and Targeted Training:

  • Virtualis Motion VR can be tailored to specific conditions and individual needs, offering targeted exercises, directed therapies, and real-time feedback that traditional methods might not achieve. Imagine practicing gait patterns on a virtual street for stroke patients or refining motor skills in a simulated sports environment.

  • Real-time feedback and data analysis: VR systems track your movements and offer immediate feedback, allowing healthcare professionals to monitor progress and adjust therapy plans as needed. Imagine athletic performance training for athletes. Using Virtualis Motion VR, athletes can see where their bodies are in real time during a given exercise and make calculated adjustments to enhance their performance. 


3. Enhanced Sensory and Motor Learning:

  • VR environments can utilize multiple sensory modalities (visual, auditory, vestibular) to create realistic situations, promoting neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to adapt and positively change and rewire) and facilitating better learning and rehabilitation. Think of practicing balance on a virtual tightrope or regaining hand coordination by playing virtual piano in a concert hall.

  • Gamification and motivation: VR incorporates game-like elements to make therapy fun and engaging, especially for children. This can lead to increased motivation and adherence, contributing to better outcomes.


4. Additional Benefits:

  • Reduced fear and anxiety: VR simulations can provide a safe and controlled environment to practice challenging tasks, helping patients overcome anxiety associated with traditional therapy. Think of someone who struggles with social anxiety. Rather than putting them in a crowded room, with Virtualis, we can tailor a virtual therapeutic environment that allows someone with social anxiety to overcome their fears in a controlled experience. 



If you are interested in the work we do at Better Brain & Body or are curious about how Virtualis Motion VR can help your health journey, call us at 704-752-8100 or fill out our contact form. We will schedule you a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation with our lead physician, Dr. Alicia Brown. For more information about Virtualis VR Therapy, please visit our Virtualis webpage.



Sources:

Pandrangi, V. C., Gaston, B., Appelbaum, N. P., Albuquerque, F. C., Jr, Levy, M. M., & Larson, R. A. (2019). The Application of Virtual Reality in Patient Education. Annals of vascular surgery, 59, 184–189. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avsg.2019.01.015


https://ameliavirtualcare.com/the-top-8-ways-virtual-reality-in-healthcare-is-transforming-medicine/


https://virtualisvr.com/en/



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