Virtual reality therapy for stroke patients is just as effective as standard physical therapy, a new study found.
Researchers discovered that virtual reality therapy improved arm, hand and finger movement after a patient had lost muscle control due to a stroke.
A stoke occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off, causing cells to die which can lead to impaired movement in parts of the face and body.
This development could make rehabilitation therapy accessible to patients at home and in their own time.
A study from Denmark used virtual reality therapy for stroke patients and found it produced the same improvements in arm, hand and finger movement as standard physical therapy.
Nearly 800,000 Americans suffer from a stroke each year and it is the fifth leading cause of death in the US.
But stokes can be treated and prevented, and death due to strokes has decreased in the last 15 years.
SIGNS YOU ARE HAVING A STROKE
Confusion and trouble with speaking and understanding or slurred speech.
Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body. Try to raise both your arms over your head at the same time. If one arm begins to fall, you may be having a stroke.
Trouble with seeing in one or both eyes. You may suddenly have blurred or blackened vision in one or both eyes, or you may see double.
Headache – a sudden, severe headache, which may be accompanied by vomiting, dizziness or altered consciousness.
Trouble walking. You may stumble or experience sudden dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination.
Source: Mayo Clinic
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die which can cause memory loss and impaired muscle control.
Researchers from Denmark conducted the study over a four-week period with four to five-hour long sessions.
The study focused on the upper-area of the body and involved 120 patients with an average age of 62 who had all suffered a stroke about a month before the study began.
Each of the participants had mild to severe muscle weakness or impairment in their wrists, hands or upper arms.
The patients were split into two groups -half had standard physical and occupational therapy, while the other half had virtual reality therapy designed for rehabilitation.
The virtual reality therapy was adapted to the patients’ ability and involved playing games that incorporated arm, hand and finger movements.
The findings published in an online issue of Neurology discovered that both groups showed substantial improvement in movement and functioning, but there was no difference between the two groups.
Study author Iris Brunner, PhD, of Aarhus University, said: ‘These results suggest that either type of training could be used, depending on what the patient prefers.’
Brunner added: ‘Future studies could also look at whether people could use virtual reality therapy remotely from their homes, which could lessen the burden and cost of traveling to a medical center for standard therapy.’
A stroke can be caused by a blocked artery or a bursting blood vessel which can be prevented by lowering blood pressure, exercising, and drinking in moderation.
Obesity, as well as complications linked to it, including high blood pressure and diabetes, raise the risk of having a stroke.
By exercising, losing weight and reducing salt intake, a person can reduce their blood pressure and ultimately decrease their risk of a stroke.