Biofeedback In Rehabilitation – Cutting Edge Physical Therapy Technology

Biofeedback has been used in rehabilitation to improve health and performance for many years.

Biofeedback is a process of providing information to an individual about physiological activities. Biofeedback devices are able to measure diverse physiological parameters like heart rate, muscle activity, pain perception or biomechanical parameters like range of motion, muscular force, or ground reaction force and present those parameters to an individual via visual, acoustic or tactile signals. For example, widely available sports watches or treadmill sensors can show your heart rate during physical exercise and provide information about the intensity of training. Video systems provide 3-dimensional analysis for posture and complex movements like gait, running or jumping and can be helpful to correct poor technique, muscular dysbalance, and postural misalignment.

By gaining awareness of physical activity an individual is enabled to control physical or biomechanical parameters and manipulate them more easily in order to improve performance. For example, biofeedback force platforms can provide information about weight distribution in standing and walking. The patient seeing asymmetry on the screen can correct it and improve his balance and weight distribution during activities of daily living. It has been helpful in the rehabilitation of patients after orthopedic surgeries of lower extremities or post-stroke survivors.

Another type of biofeedback that is widely used in neurology and musculoskeletal disorders is Electromyography (EMG) biofeedback. EMG devices use electrodes applied on the weak or paretic muscles to detect muscle electrical signals and convert it to visual or auditory signals providing information about muscle activity. In other words, a patient can see on the screen when his muscle is being voluntary activated. EMG biofeedback can be used for example to exercise muscular atrophy of the main knee extensor – quadriceps muscle for patients after knee surgery.

Virtual reality biofeedback is another type of sophisticated technology that aids physical therapists.

Thanks to the recent technological development of virtual reality (VR) and gaming systems VR biofeedback is being used more frequently in physical therapy.

A great example of VR biofeedback can be Luna EMG produced by Egzotech. Luna is a robotic device that can use EMG system to detect muscle activity and enable patients to perform exercises in a computer-simulated environment and play games using voluntary muscle contraction. It’s way more enjoyable and motivating to retrain muscles by playing a game rather than perform 30 repetitions of knee extension.
VR creates interactive, multi-dimensional and close to a real-life environment so that the player can easily transfer and control newly learned abilities into real, physical world.

In addition, clinicians can obtain a lot of objective data about patient’s performance and control improvement more easily.

Finally, biofeedback devices can be a great supplement to physical therapy and provide reinforcement for traditional exercises.

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