Motor rehabilitation using virtual reality (VR) may improve hand and arm function in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a review study.
Evidence of its beneficial effect is, however, still preliminary, as most analyzed studies included small patient groups and some failed to show statistically significant improvements in upper limb function, the researchers noted.
As such, further research is needed to determine the therapeutic benefits of VR-based motor rehabilitation, its optimal protocol, and whether this type of approach is more effective than conventional rehabilitation strategies.
The review study, “Upper limb rehabilitation interventions using virtual reality for people with multiple sclerosis: A systematic review,” was published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.
Most people with MS experience a gradual loss of function and dexterity in their hands and arms, which has a negative impact on their everyday activities, independence, employment, and quality of life.
However, upper limb rehabilitation interventions in MS patients have been “historically understudied,” the researchers wrote, but such approaches can improve hand and arm motor function, according to current limited data.
One promising and relatively new strategy is based on VR, using interactive simulations that can be integrated into serious games — those designed for purposes other than pure entertainment, and which promote learning and behavioral changes.
“The increased interest in VR based strategies are due to the reported advantages, such as improving motivation and enjoyment, providing real-time feedback in a safe virtual environment and having the potential to be used where the user feels comfortable, such as the home,” the researchers wrote.
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