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'Trick' treatment helps stroke patients

27th August 2008

People who have suffered a stroke could benefit from a new type of physiotherapy treatment which "tricks" the user into recovering.

walking stick1

Wendy Powell at the University of Portsmouth has created a special kind of treadmill which displays moving pictures to the person using it.

These pictures act on the stroke patient's brain by tricking them into believing they are walking at a slow pace. This makes the patient try to walk at an increased pace.

The pictures displayed include different backgrounds, including cities, woods and mountains.

Trials for the device are currently underway at McGill University in Canada.

Ms Powell reported that some patients have seen improvements in their mobility by 20% and users said they felt "less pain" in comparison to other types of treatment.

She said: "We're effectively fooling the brain and the body. The environment is stimulating and entertaining and there's less fear of falling over."

Ms Powell, who previously worked as a chiropractor, said the treatment would be particularly useful for elderly stroke patients.

She said that after a stroke many older people did not have the "motivation and confidence" to regain their mobility and they often found physical therapy boring.

Dr Jane Williams, a consultant nurse in stroke care at St Mary's Hospital in Portsmouth, said: "I can see it working very well on improving strength, endurance and stamina."

"Consistency and practice are key to making progress and this system has huge potential across a wide range of activities which can be tailored to meet individual rehabilitation needs."

 

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