VR Train Integral for Fibromyalgia Rehabilitation

Many health professionals would acknowledge that exercise is one of the best medicines for people with chronic diseases and that it should be a high priority for their patients. On the other hand, it could be for people who suffer from painful disorders that affect the muscles, such as: B. fibromyalgia, the least appealing form of medication. However, there is a promising new study of therapy that combines virtual reality and movement that can prove to be a literal game changer for people with fibromyalgia.

Exergames study on virtual reality

The study “Exergames for Women with Fibromyalgia: A Randomized Controlled Trial to Assess the Effects on Mobility Skills, Balance and Fear of Falls” examined the effects of exergames, a virtual reality-based exercise program, on mobility, balance and fear of falling 83 women clinically diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

This study lasted eight weeks. The participants in the control group used exergames for one hour per session twice a week. The women in the control group showed a significant improvement in all areas in the short time that the study was carried out. Exergames proved to be a success.

The researchers stated, “These results, along with high adherence, demonstrate that exergames may represent a viable alternative form of rehabilitation therapy to improve balance and mobility problems in this population.”

Fibromyalgia sufferers need exercise

Fibromyalgia, or FM, is a chronic condition that causes musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and problems with sleep, mood, and memory. Years of research have shown that exercise is very effective for fibromyalgia management. This includes regular exercise and other forms of muscle system manipulation such as massage, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, and stretching. Now state-of-the-art exergames are also proving to be an effective treatment.

Why are virtual exergames so effective?

Virtual exercise therapy offers users an overall better quality of life by helping to restore their physical functioning. VirtualEx-FM, the exergames system used in the study, uses special games to improve balance, mobility and reduce the fear of falling.

Another incredible component of this exergame system, according to the researchers, is that it includes built-in software to track participants’ movements and provide real-time feedback on their movement patterns.

This allows the technician who controls the program while the participants are using it to adjust the level of difficulty for each individual user. No other form of therapy can adapt the treatment for each individual FM patient as precisely and quickly as the VirtualEx FM system.

Exergames address several exercise-related problems for people with fibromyalgia

VirtualEx-FM uses three different virtual environments to treat the symptoms of fibromyalgia and restore the physical function of FM participants.

  1. aerobics

Previous research has shown that light to moderate aerobic exercise can relieve pain, fatigue, and depression in FM patients. The aerobic component of VirtualEx-FM includes full body movements performed by a professional kinesiologist and dance instructor. The user performs a warm up followed by full body joint movement training or a dance video similar to Zumba, a popular form of group exercise.

  1. Coordination & Posture

FM patients often have poor coordination and posture because FM affects their body’s connective tissue including muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Strengthening the foundation of the body, the core, is one of the best ways to build muscle and restore coordination and posture.

The second component of VirtualEx-FM focuses on improving coordination and posture control. In this virtual game, the user interacts with an apple that appears in different places. The low impact movements are based on core strengthening exercises. The level of difficulty is controlled by a technician who allows the user to continuously improve as the level of difficulty of the program can increase as the strength of the user increases.

  1. Mobility, balance and coordination

FM is often associated with poor balance caused by pain in the body’s connective tissue and severe headache or dizziness, leading to fear of falling. Mobility, balance, and coordination are critical to performing normal activities in daily life.

The third component of VirtualEx-FM helps to improve mobility, balance and coordination through a game in which the user steps on “virtual footprints”. The study states that steps range from normal strides to tiptoe to walking on heels or lifting the knees or heels during the steps.

This component is also controlled by a technician who can manipulate the difficulty of the game, making it more or less difficult depending on the mobility, balance and level of coordination of the user.

Can exergames increase training motivation?

Motivation and low adherence to exercise programs are a common problem with FM patients. Muscle pain could be the main deterrent when it comes to motivation to exercise. The VirtualEx FM system combines virtual reality and movement to effectively distract patients from the pain they are experiencing, which could make exergames a more attractive alternative to fibromyalgia patients.

This study did not examine the motivation of the participants. It provided a social environment as participants used the exergames in groups of three, and research has shown that social networks are a highly effective way of motivating people to exercise. However, more research needs to be done to assess participants’ motivation.

This study is merely the first analysis of the use of an innovative virtual reality-based exercise to improve the overall quality of life for people with fibromyalgia. This could be the wave of the future in terms of FM therapy by addressing their specific exercise needs and offering an innovative new way to improve strength, balance, mobility and reduce the fear of falls.

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