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It comes as no surprise that virtual reality (VR) has the potential to completely change patient care in physiotherapy. Technology is advancing so rapidly and its applications are limitless. Through VR, therapists can create controlled, immersive environments that are tailor-made for the specific therapeutic needs of each patient. This personalised approach engages and motivates patients, while also providing carers with close monitoring capabilities they can use to adjust treatment as needed, speeding up the recovery process. As VR technology becomes more accessible, physiotherapists are increasingly adopting this tool and encouraging a shift towards more interactive, patient-centred therapy.

Australia has been at the forefront of integrating Virtual Reality (VR) technology into physiotherapy, with numerous research initiatives and projects that highlight the country's commitment to innovative healthcare solutions.

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Several significant studies have been conducted across Australia that demonstrate the effectiveness and potential of VR in rehabilitation settings:
  1. University of Sydney - Researchers conducted studies at a number of hospitals that show how effective VR is in improving balance and mobility in patients who have suffered strokes, brain injuries, falls and fractures. These studies highlight VR's role in providing a safe, controlled environment where patients can practice physical tasks, receive instant feedback, and adjust their efforts in real time.
  2. Curtin University - Curtin researchers plan to develop a system that uses artificial intelligence to provide fast and personalised care for young people living with chronic musculoskeletal pain.
  3. Monash University - Researchers at Monash are exploring immersive virtual reality and how it can be used in mental healthcare. Over two decades of research has found VR-based exposure therapy to be effective for treating anxiety disorders, and possibly a range of other mental health illnesses.

Several Australian institutions and research centres have established themselves as leaders in the field of VR physiotherapy research:
  1. The University of Queensland has been involved in researching and developing VR applications that help with injury recovery.
  2. The Rehabilitation Innovation Centre at Griffith University focuses on creating and testing VR interventions to improve outcomes for people with physical disabilities.

Australia has also seen the development of several VR applications specifically designed for rehabilitation:
  • VirtuWalk - This treadmill is used for interacting with VR worlds. The patented handlebar allows the user to walk around in the virtual world, seeing each other as avatars.
  • MyPATH - Researchers from Curtin University are currently developing MyPATH, which will function as a ‘virtual clinician and coach’ care model to provide personalised pain care directly to young people

One of the biggest benefits of VR in physiotherapy is its ability to engage and motivate patients through their rehabilitation process. VR introduces an element of gamification into therapy, which turns routine exercises into interactive and fun activities that patients actually look forward to. This helps with motivation, making it especially beneficial for long-term rehabilitation programs. For instance, a patient recovering from a leg injury can practice walking on different surfaces and inclines within a VR setting before attempting them in the real world. Simulations can be tailored to each patient's specific needs, offering a flexible approach to rehabilitation.

VR technology also provides valuable data that can be used to adjust treatment plans in real-time. Sophisticated sensors and software within systems can measure joint angles, muscle strength, balance and coordination, which can be used to track progress over time. Physiotherapists have the opportunity to fine-tune their therapy protocols based on this data rather than just their observations alone.

The future of Virtual Reality (VR) in physiotherapy within Australia looks promising, driven by technological advancements.
  1. Widespread adoption across clinics: As VR becomes more accessible it will be taken up by more clinics and be seen as a necessary tool for effective patient care.
  2. Integration with other technologies: In time, VR will integrate with other digital health technologies such as telehealth platforms, wearable devices and more. This offers a collaborative approach to rehabilitation allowing for real-time monitoring and adjustments.
  3. Development of specialised applications: As research continues, we will see specialised VR applications tailored to specific conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or sports injuries.ion needs more effectively, enhancing the precision of physiotherapy treatment.

As VR technology becomes more accessible and beneficial across different areas of physiotherapy, it will become widely adopted and relied on for treating a number of different conditions. With continued research, investment and collaborative efforts, VR will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of physiotherapy in Australia.


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Felicity Frankish

Flick Frankish is an experienced Editor and Marketing Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the publishing industry. After studying journalism and digital media, she naturally fell into the online world - and hasn't left since!
She is skilled in running successful social media campaigns and generating leads and sales. Combines skills of editing, SEO copywriting, email campaigns and social media marketing for success.

Before moving into the freelance world, Felicity worked as Senior Subeditor at CHILD Magazines, International Marketing Manager at QualityTrade and Marketing Manager for Children’s Tumor Foundation.