Eastern Iowa rehab centers now using virtual exercise therapy

System tracks patient's precise movements, allows them to 'play' during therapy sessions

Margie Blaine of Cedar Rapids uses the new Omni VR Virtual Reality System with Physical Therapy Assistant Heather Christ
Margie Blaine of Cedar Rapids uses the new Omni VR Virtual Reality System with Physical Therapy Assistant Heather Christenson to work on balance exercises at Manorcare on Wednesday, August, 7, 2013 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The system's camera senses her movements and makes corresponding movements to her icon on the screen. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

Imagine hitting a volleyball over a net, except while inside and in front of a computer screen.

At rehabilitation centers employing the latest in customized virtual exercise therapy, patients go through the motion of raising their hands to hit the ball and "play" the game, just like with a Nintendo Wii but without paddles or cords of any kind.

ManorCare Rehabilitation Center, 1940 First Ave. NE in Cedar Rapids, began offering the OmniVR Virtual Reality System in mid-July. It uses an advanced 3D camera and computer software to track a patient's precise movements and allow them to interact in a virtual world.

The system is designed specifically for aging adults and rehabilitation patients, said Leah Schmidt, admissions and marketing director at ManorCare.

The system was created for patients who could have anything from paralysis caused by a stroke to limited mobility for a short period of time, Schmidt said. Virtual rehabilitation also can be used in a group therapy setting.

It comes with a computerized system that tracks the patient. Each time an individual user gets in front of the 42-inch screen, the system tracks his or her particular progress.

The virtual rehabilitation system is "another tool in our toolbox of different things we can use to help the patients get to their highest practical level," said Melinda Fischer, a physical therapist and director of rehabilitation at ManorCare.

One of the games on the OmniVR is Bingo.

"When you get the Bingo then it has you stand up, so when you stand up, you have to use the proper technique," Fischer said. "You can break down the sit-to-stand transfer to just actually leaning forward, you can break it down to leaning forward and doing a partial stand, and then once you get that down then you do the whole thing."If you don't use the proper technique for that transfer, then it doesn't give you the Bingo."

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