Up a river without a paddle in your rehabilitation? Then virtual canoeing might be for you

June 29, 2018

Rehab is something you have to do, but it can be a chore sometimes. Why not make it a little more entertaining with some video games. The use of virtual reality which combines video games with exercises is an up and coming therapy in stroke.  It gives patients visual feedback as they train. Hence, speeding up and enhancing recovery. A recent study shows that using something so simple like the Nintendo Wii can help stroke patients regain balance and arm function. And since so many kids are practically glued to their video games consoles, we can only assume that this type of therapy also offers a fun factor.

Good news for stroke patients

A Korean study shows that stroke patients who used the Nintendo Wii Sports Resort canoeing game improved balance and arm function. The researchers created a canoe stimulator by fixing a chair onto a springboard. This created the same type of swaying from side to side that occurs in an actual canoe. This game requires patients to simulate paddling on one side, which strengthens the arm and improves coordination. The study examined 30 patients who had a stroke in the past 6 months.  Half of the patients participated in virtual canoeing for 30 minutes, three times a week for five weeks. The other had traditional therapy.

After five weeks, both groups were examined. The group that played the Wii game had much better posture, balance, and arm function than the group who didn’t get to join in on the fun.

This short news item from a few years ago already predicted that virtual reality will change stroke rehabilitation.

How to find canoeing rehabilitation

Virtual reality rehabilitation is becoming more popular. With VR, you can make exercise more interesting. More importantly, you get an immediate response which tells you how much you are improving.

There are many VR rehab clinics across the country, so ask if they also offer canoeing programs. If you can’t find one, you can try this one at home. A used Nintendo Wii Resort Sports pack runs about $100 on eBay and the springboard used in this study costs about $300. The set up won’t be as elaborate as in a clinical setting, but it will give you a good start. So, you can get paddling to reach your goal.

The Strokemark team is here for you. We are always investigating new methods to improve your stroke recovery. We’ll keep you updated in the latest advances of virtual reality.

The lead author of this study is Myung Mo Lee, Department of Physical Therapy, Daejeon University, Daejeon, South Korea.

What you can do with this information

Editorial note:

Rehabilitation doesn't have to be boring. This study shows that playing a virtual reality video game can yield real benefits.

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