A VIRTUAL reality clinic in Newcastle is helping people rehabilitate while they have a little fun.
Thought to be the first multi-disciplinary virtual reality clinic in Australia, Engage VR is using technology in the rehabilitation of mostly neurological clients - so people who have had a stroke, have Parkinson's or have suffered brain and spinal injuries.
It is the brainchild of physiotherapist Craig Hewat, formerly of Ethos Health, and personal trainer and movement therapist Rohan O'Reilly. The business partners set up shop in Mayfield West late last year.
"Rohan has been using virtual reality for probably six years," Mr Hewat said.
"The two big reasons for using virtual reality (VR) or AR - which is augmented reality, in rehab is firstly the engagement of clients, because it is so much fun.
"We can put someone into an environment where they are flying, climbing a mountain, racing a bike in France.
"And they get totally engaged by what they are doing. But what we are doing is putting them through a range of exercises to help in their recovery.
"One of the biggest challenges in physiotherapy is compliance, but clients want to come back again and again and again to this, so compliance is high."
Mr Hewat said the other reason for using VR was the growing body of research into "neuroplasticity".
"That is when the brain starts to rewire itself, or reconnect, when it is put into a new environment," he said.
"A lot of our clients will have balance issues, and they'll go into VR and their brain will start to light up - and we see that from the data we are looking at.
"When we pull them out of VR and we do floor-based activities, their balance is suddenly better because their brain is so lit up. It is fun, and they are getting benefit, which is a win-win."
Mr O'Reilly is the latest guest on Feros Care's Grow Bold with Disability podcast, where he talks about the rapidly evolving future of virtual reality - once the sole domain of gamers - in rehabilitation.
"We're taking it to the next level of how VR can allow you to interact on a deeper level of emersion," he said.
"VR at the moment you can see it, and your brain greatly believes what you see, but if you can feel in VR as well, that's a completely different level and that's where it is moving," he said.
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