Virtual reality can be used to treat a wide range of health issues which include:
- Lifestyle issues, e.g. healthy eating
- Preventative medicine, e.g. stopping smoking
- Rehabilitation, e.g. regain mobility following a stroke
- Counselling, e.g. post traumatic stress disorder
These are just some of the many ways in which virtual reality can be used to treat various medical conditions or to reduce the risk of these happening in the first place. This article discussed them in more detail.
These systems use simulations which are viewed through a head mounted display (HMD). The headset also contains a tracking device which records the movements of their head, e.g. turn in a particular direction which changes the perception of these images. This adds to the realism and immersion.
The headset also contains earphones so that the wearer can receive audio input and in some cases a microphone so that they can verbally interact with what is going on around them.
The HMD is a central feature of a virtual reality system. Other features include an input device such as a data glove, joystick or wand controller which enables the user to interact with their surroundings.
Virtual reality and lifestyle issues
Virtual reality used in lifestyle issues such as the promotion of healthy eating is an effective way of reinforcing certain messages such as the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables or reducing the amount of salt in our diets. One way of doing so is to feature a 3D human figure or avatar which exhibits mood changes dependant upon whether the user makes good or bad food choices.
Virtual reality and preventative medicine
In cases of preventative medicine, for example a smoking cessation programme, virtual reality is used as a form of therapy alongside traditional forms of counselling, e.g. hypnotherapy. It is used to help smokers understand the cause of their cravings and ways of dealing with these. It is also used in weight management programmes and phobia treatment.
Virtual reality and rehabilitation
Someone who is undergoing rehabilitation following a stroke can use virtual reality as part of their treatment programme. This uses games technology as a means of helping stroke patients to regain motor control via a series of small interactive tasks. This involves an input device and requires the user to pick up a virtual object or manipulate it in a variety of ways.
Virtual reality and counselling
Counselling involves the use of different therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and hypnotherapy but computer assisted therapies are equally as useful. Virtual reality plays a part in that it is used to help people overcome a particular fear or coping strategies when faced with a stressful situation, e.g. public speaking.
This is discussed in more detail in our virtual reality in phobia treatment article.
Virtual reality is used to diagnose and treat a variety of conditions. It is also used as a preventative measure and in the recovery process, for example during rehabilitation.