Virtual reality systems could help patients with multiple sclerosis with balance issues.
What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the most common diseases of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Healthy nerves are coated in a fatty casing (called the myelin sheath) which helps messages to travel quickly and smoothly along nerves.
When a person is suffering from MS, the immune system, which normally helps to protect against infection, attacks the myelin sheath, stripping it from the nerves (demyelination).
This demyelination means that messages cannot travel along the nerves effectively, causing a range of disabilities like muscle weakness, walking difficulties, fatigue, thinking problems, numbness and blurred vision.
Helping MS patients with their balance
Many people suffering from MS suffer from problems with balance. The aim of this study was to look at the effects of training with a new virtual reality system on balance in people with MS and compare it with traditional physical therapy. The study was performed in the Sheba Multiple Sclerosis Center and the Center of Advanced Technologies in Rehabilitation at Tel-HaShomer, Israel.
Participants were randomly allocated to one of two groups. Those in the first group complete a 6 week virtual reality training program using the computer assisted rehabilitation environment (CAREN) system.
The participants took part in two sessions a week which included around 30 minutes of balance training. Participants were asked to stand on a moving platform and look at a screen with a road on it.