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Effectiveness of virtual reality-based gait education in enhancing the rehabilitation outcomes of injured military personnel

Abstract

Introduction Correcting adverse biomechanics is key in rehabilitating musculoskeletal injuries. Verbal instruction remains the primary method for correcting biomechanics and therefore a patient’s understanding of these instructions is believed to directly influence treatment outcomes. The aim of this study was to establish the patients’ perceptions of virtual reality-based gait education (VR-GEd) and to assess its influence on the standard military rehabilitation outcomes.

Methods A retrospective analysis using routinely collected data was performed. Twenty patients with lower-limb musculoskeletal injuries undertook a VR-GEd session on the commencement of a 3-week, multidisciplinary, inpatient course of rehabilitation. Patient outcomes were compared with a group of matched controls, completing the same standardised course of inpatient treatment.

Results The VR-GEd group exhibited greater reductions the interference pain had on their mood (p=0.022). Improvements in generalised anxiety (p=0.029) were greater in the VR-GEd group but were not large enough to be clinically meaningful. VR-GEd did not influence functional outcomes. Patients rated the sessions highly in terms of enjoyment and perceived value. Patient feedback highlighted that they understood their injury better and felt the session could positively influence their recovery.

Conclusion VR-GEd was proven to be an enjoyable and valued means of educating military inpatients about their injury mechanics. This study found no contraindications for the inclusion of VR-GEd in current rehabilitation programmes. However, current evidence suggests a single VR-GEd session cannot act as a replacement for biofeedback interventions, due to the lack of enhanced improvement across rehabilitation outcomes.

  • rehabilitation medicine
  • musculoskeletal disorders
  • education & training (see medical education & training)
  • audit
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