Pediatrician Ednar Cerqueira, 72, walks on a treadmill similar to those in a gym which treats the after-effects left by Covid-19, in particular difficulty in moving around. But the treatment is not only a physical activity: with the steps on the treadmill, the retiree also controls a virtual reality game displayed on a screen in front of the equipment. The dynamics are simple: to avoid the obstacles in the game and complete the missions, she must move in real life, working on physical effort and motor planning:
— I improved my balance, my mobility. And I’ve already trained in the games, which are even fun.
Known in the world of gaming, virtual reality has proven to be an ally for the rehabilitation of patients with sequelae from Covid-19. But there are other uses, such as treating phobias and recovering patients with leg or arm paralysis. Recent studies even show that the strategy also reduces the sensation of pain in the treatment of childhood cancer.
In the case of Covid-19, physiatrist André Sugawara, from the Lucy Montoro network, explains that the disease impairs the central nervous system and causes many people to forget how to perform simple tasks, such as walking and moving their arms.
“Motor training combined with virtual reality accelerates the retrieval and restoration of these unconscious memories,” he explains.
Ednar, who traveled from Maceió to São Paulo for treatment at Lucy Montoro, says he has seen progress in real life and in the game. of his steps on the treadmill. The objective is to collect ingredients to assemble a pizza.
“When I arrived, I couldn’t assemble pizza. Today I am three years old, ”she says, who had to interrupt her work because of the Covid.
Virtual reality is also helping in the treatment of Maria Del Pilar, 62, who suffered cardiac arrest in May 2019 and spent three months in a coma. When she woke up, the retired chemical engineer could only move her eyes, her carer, Josiane Silva Santos, 48, told EXTRA:
— With robotic physiotherapy, she can now stand up, help us get up, turn over in bed.
As Pilar still cannot walk, walking on the treadmill is done using a support attached to her hip and legs. The virtual reality game simulates a walk and, at the end, displays the meters covered.
“Virtual reality makes it easier to use brain resources to simulate movement and force the brain to reconstruct task memory,” says Sugawara.
A recent study by Michelle Zampar Silva, PhD in the Child and Adolescent Health Program at the Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto, showed that virtual reality also reduces acute pain during blood sampling in children. and adolescents undergoing cancer treatment. .
— We compared a day of blood collection without the use of virtual reality glasses then with use. The result was a decrease in crying and restlessness. And from the oximeter, we saw that the heart rate, which is higher in pain, also went down,” Michelle said.
The game used by Michelle was developed in partnership with researchers from the Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp). The environments have trees, not snow or cold, which alludes to the hospitable environment. And the character is a child, with a healthy appearance, which the patient must admire.
The specialist also claims that the technology has been used for other purposes, such as treating phobias.