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virtual reality for neck pain rehabilitation and research

Virtual Reality systems are quickly becoming more accessible and more powerful, and are opening all new avenues for treatment and research of pain and trauma. At the PIRL we are currently focusing on two applications for VR:

  1. Gameifying Rehabilitation for improved effectiveness of neck exercises. It’s a well-recognized truth in rehabilitation that neck exercises are generally fairly boring. Researchers have also shown that beyond stiffness and weakness, neck pain is also associated with poor balance, reduced accuracy, and reduced speed of movement. We have built a prototype ‘Rehab Game’ and have started testing it in healthy and clinical populations as a new approach to improving neck pain and related problems.

  2. Simulating trauma for controlled lab-based experiments. It is awfully hard to capture and quantify the physiological reactions to trauma like that of a car crash. We would like to explore how different stress reactions, including cardiovascular, muscular, psychological, and endocrine, affect pain processing and perception. In the absence of actually driving into people, we have built an immersive VR / robotic platform experience that exposes participants to all of the aspects of a car crash without the actual injury. We are using this simulator and a number of accurate tools for biophysical and psychophysical quantification to explore questions that have not previously been explorable.