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Introducing virtual reality as physical therapy in WNY

Howard Physical Therapy is using tech to heal
Posted at 12:47 PM, Jun 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-17 10:59:07-04

DEPEW, N.Y. (WKBW) — It's typically known for gaming, but one local physical therapist is using virtual reality to help all kinds of patients heal.

"Hip fractures, shoulder problems, elbow problems, balance and coordination issues, some of our neurological patients that have MS," said Mark Howard, owner of Howard Physical Therapy.

He's the only one in our area using this VR, called "the REAL System" by Penumbra. His patients are making progress unlike anything he's seen in his 35 year career.

"Patients that were afraid to move and when they put the virtual system on they were distracted by the activities and moving far more than we've seen them move doing traditional exercise," said Howard.

Patients put sensors over their chest, waist, arms, hands and face, entering an immersive system, taking them from their world of pain to a world of color and games.

"It takes them to beaches, forests and things, just to distract them for 20-30 minutes," said Howard. "[Games] where you're actually immersed in a pinball machine, everybody loves playing pinball," said Howard.

Using traditional methods, Howard's patients would get bored and stop coming altogether, but he says that's changing since he started using virtual reality in the past year.

"Patients that were afraid to move and when they put the virtual system on they were distracted by the activities and moving far more than we've seen them move doing traditional exercise," said Howard.

It's now part of his everyday therapy use and costs patients no additional charge to use the VR system. The goal is to have physical therapists everywhere immersing their patients and moving all of healthcare in a similar direction. For more info on Howard Physical Therpay, click here. If you want to get involved in using this system, click here.