Archive for May, 2014

Discovering The Use Of Robotics In Physical Therapy

27 May

How Robotics are Helping with Physical Therapy
Using robotics in physical therapy is becoming a very interesting and useful procedure for stroke victims. The robot can exercise a patient’s limbs just as though a therapist was giving the exercise. A study was conducted where a stroke victim with reduced arm movement in one arm got some of his ability back after having lost movement up to five years after having the stroke. The future looks bright for robotic therapy in the home.

One of the most serious causes of long-term disability in the United States today is stroke, with roughly 4.6 million stroke survivors still alive today. Traditionally, it is believed that the first six months is critical after a stroke that recovery begin to happen, so most of the effort for stroke recovery is pushed into that time period. The research on rehab robot therapy for stroke victims shows that robot assisted therapy can be of great help in assisting victims of stroke years after the event.

In cases where an arm or a leg does not recover its function early after the stroke, most victims will compensate for the loss and probably not use that limb much at all, which only leads to more disability. So, a test was run where a MIT designed a robot that can be used in occupational and physical therapy.

The robot, which is designed to be mounted on a table, has an arm that extends out about two feet, and then the patient’s affected arm is attached to the robotic extension. Once the arm of the patient is secured to the robot, it moves the patient’s arm through a series of motions that are programmed into the robot.

Therapists and scientists believe that the repetitive motion from the robot can help to rebuild the nerve pathways from the injured limb to the brain. This appears to be occurring even after years of disuse has occurred.

Advantages of Rehab Robotics

The advantages that the robot has over its human counterparts is that the robot never gets tired. Physical and occupational therapy is very labor intensive and it can also become very expensive, however the robot only needs to be programmed and plugged in, and it is ready to go. It can be very versatile as it can be programmed to push back with some resistance at different levels and it can be of help for a person who is very weak, to complete some difficult movements.

An early robot called MIT-Manus was used earlier for therapy for inpatient use at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, New York. The success of the research there led to further studies of the longer term patients who had survived strokes.

Another form of the robotic therapy is also used stroke victims and patients who have had spinal cord injury. These patients would use crutches or a wheel chair for their mobility, as they take therapy and gain more mobility via physical therapy performed in a PT rehab clinic in Phoenix or in rehabilitation hospitals anywhere in the country.

Techniques and Phases

The new technique involves strapping on a body suit that is robotic or a bionic limb, so that they can actually walk while they are healing and they receive therapy in that manner. The movement that is allowed through the digital hardware in the body suit or bionic limb is showing that they are recovering faster than normal.

These test are being conducted and financed by several robotic companies that are privately held, and who are planning major announcements to the medical community and the public at large, that this technology will soon be available on a wide scale to thousands of PT rehab clinics in Phoenix and hospitals all over the country. The pricing is coming down as it is seen that the demand is great. Even though venture capital is still hanging back, the firms pushing the outcome of the robotic products foresee the less than robust market now, awakening to the miracle of the robotic therapy units becoming a hit. Since these devices actually are a robotic exoskeleton, they do work wonders.

There is another phase of robotic intervention in the after stroke arena, with the use of robots that can talk and converse with patients who have had strokes. They many times have lost the ability to speak and express themselves, which can be overcome somewhat by continual therapy in word and speaking formation exercises, but it takes a long time and there are only so many therapists to go around. With the use of the speech therapy robot, there can be many more people helped as the robot can dialog with the patient and the results are very promising.

We are certainly entering an age where robots are proving their mettle, and earning a place in the mainstream of rehabilitation. Robotic physical and occupational therapy may be enhance by an exponential measure simply due to the ability of more personal and intensive therapy being make available to more people than before. The ability of a patient to have more consistent and structured therapy on a continual basis will mean so much more progress in the stoke victim’s recovery.

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