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New York Times: VR Shows Promise for Physical Therapy Patients

The New York Times recently spoke with Brennan M. Spiegel, MD, director of Health Services Research at Cedars-Sinai, about the value of treating physical therapy patients with virtual reality (VR).

The technology has grown popular in the physical rehabilitation setting due to advances in hardware and software and an increased focus on telehealth during the pandemic.

As a physical therapy patient himself, Spiegel told The Times he understands why many patients struggle to perform their prescribed exercises at home. Virtual reality can help ease patients through that process.

"Sometimes I get home and I forget exactly what I was supposed to do," Spiegel told The Times. "How am I supposed to set up my body for this? And also, do I have the motivation to do it right now? VR can help both of those, both by reproducing precisely what that physical movement is supposed to be and hopefully providing some additional motivation to do the exercise."

That’s because VR introduces a fun factor, letting patients pretend to fly like an eagle, pop balloons with a virtual sword or walk through a virtual forest. The digital environment can even distract a patient’s mind from their perceived limitations, helping them perform movements they hadn’t thought were possible.

"VR has this uncanny ability to kind of nudge the human brain in ways that other audiovisual media cannot," said Spiegel. "The bottom line is it motivates us to do things that we might not be able to do."

Click here to read the complete story in The New York Times.