11.03.2019 change 11.03.2019
Kamil Szubański
Kamil Szubański

VR will support diagnostics and therapy of the cervical spine

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

There is a chance for virtual reality to support diagnostics, therapy and rehabilitation training for people with cervical spine dysfunction and damage. A special system that will help in this has been created by specialists from the Medical University of Lodz.

VRneck was developed at the Medical Rehabilitation Clinic of the Medical University of Lodz. It is an innovative system for assessment of the functional status of the cervical spine and cranio-cervical and cervical-thoracic junction in people with motor control disorders, says project leader Prof. Jolanta Kujawa, head of the Department of Rehabilitation and Medical Rehabilitation Clinic, Medical University of Lodz.

The system also enables training of neuromuscular coordination of people with pain, muscle tone disorders and limited range of motion in the joints of the spine due to diseases of the musculoskeletal system and cervical spine injuries. According to its authors, it can be a helpful tool in the work of physicians, physiotherapists and personal trainers.

Professor Kujawa emphasises that over 80 percent people in Europe experience spine pain at least once in a lifetime. Neck pain is the most frequent osteoarticular pain in highly developed countries and affects 30-50 percent of the population annually.

"Another big problem is that over 15 percent people with cervical spine pain experience chronic pain syndromes, which means that this pain persists for over three months. This has consequences for different spheres of life: negative mood states, depression, limited physical and occupational activity and many other problems, including marital or partner relationship disorders resulting from chronic pain" - emphasises Prof. Kujawa.

The cervical segment dysfunction is more and more often diagnosed in young people. The problem is also growing due to the aging of societies and the extension of the productive age. The disorder is fostered, among other things, by stress or long-term work at the computer. This is associated with growing social costs related to the increase in outlays for treatment and sickness benefits, and in post-traumatic cases - compensation payments.

The problem in rehabilitation is the fact that in 90 percent patients the cause of discomfort is undetermined, it is non-specific pain associated with overloading various structures of the spine and paraspinal tissues.

The specialists from Łódź have developed a tool and method that supports a quick diagnosis that helps to objectify the clinical assessment of functional disorders.

Urgent diagnostics and the earliest possible elimination of such disorders is important, because functional disorders of the musculoskeletal system are reversible. "As long as the disorder is functional and has not caused structural changes, it is reversible, therefore a quick diagnosis, quick, effective, targeted and monitored treatment is extremely valuable here" - emphasises Prof. Kujawa.

VRneck uses virtual reality for the assessment of functional disorders of the cervical spine, cranio-cervical and cervical-thoracic junction.

According to the solution co-author Dr. Tomasz Adamczewski, MD, physiotherapy and orthopedic manual therapy expert, the system consists of several components. They include VR goggles, a system of special gyroscopes for positioning the body during the examination and software that enables recording and analysis of functional tasks performed by the patient.

The "heart" of the software is a set of boards with geometric figures that depict simple and complex movements that a person performs. "The figures are trajectories of movements that every person performs every day, and the essence of this examination is to record and analyse the trajectory records of movements during a specific functional examination" - explains Dr. Adamczewski.

The patient replicates the shapes of figures seen in the VR goggles with head movements, and the system assesses the number and quality of mistakes. It is a specific measure of performance of the musculoskeletal system and neuromuscular coordination of the patient.

"Examination and interpretation of the results allow us to form a hypothesis regarding the patient`s functioning profile. On its basis, we develop a very specific program of individual therapy, which includes manual therapy, kinesitherapy and physiotherapy treatments" - the expert says.

The development of the prototype of the device completed the pre-implementation phase of the project, which was supported by the Centre for Innovation and Technology Transfer of the Medical University of Lodz. In the next stage, trials involving a large group of patients (initially - 200) are planned.

"In the next stage, we will develop an expert diagnosis program and targeted, planned treatment based on the analysis of the results" - says Prof. Jolanta Kujawa. According to the researcher, the work in the second stage will take about three years. Only then the invention will become available to specialists.

VRneck has already won recognition abroad. It received two special prizes and a Gold Medal at the Kaohsiung International Invention and Design EXPO (KIDE) 2018 in Taiwan.

PAP - Science in Poland, Kamil Szubański

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