Pioneering research into how persistent pain can be managed through virtual reality technology is being extended to find solutions for people trying to overcome the symptoms of long Covid.
Since 2017, Teesside University has been one of the partners in the £2m (2.4 million Euros) VR4Rehab project, along with universities, hospitals and industry in the Netherlands, UK, France, Germany and Belgium, looking at how virtual reality-based tools can be used in in rehabilitation with the Teesside team focusing on pain management.
The project has now been extended for another three years with £1.6m (1.9 million Euros) funding from the EU North West Europe Interreg programme to extend the research into how the long term effects of Covid-19 (long Covid) can be managed using the same technology.
Findings from the first stage of the research are due to be presented at the VR4Rehab congress, a virtual conference held on 23-24 June where, alongside keynote speakers and presentations covering a wide range of research, innovation projects and practice in virtual rehabilitation, there will be the opportunity for small businesses involved in the development of virtual technology to pitch to potential investors.
The Teesside University team is led by Professor Denis Martin, Professor of Rehabilitation and Director of the Centre for Rehabilitation.
He said that the VR4Rehab had already identified new virtual reality tools for the management of persistent pain.
These have included Move VRee, a VR game that therapists and patients can use to retrain motor control and change pain perception. This VR game is being developed for patients with persistent wrist pain and for the therapists that want to help them.
In addition, the Pain Toolkit a world-leading website which provides advice and support for people with persistent pain is adding a virtual dimension to allow people from around the world to meet up in a ‘virtual support group’.
Some of these advances could now be expanded and adapted for the treatment of long Covid.
Long Covid occurs in some people who have had a coronavirus infection and can last for weeks or months.
Symptoms can include extreme tiredness, shortness of breath, chest pain, memory problems, dizziness, pins and needles and joint pain.
Professor Martin said: “VR4Rehab has been an incredibly interesting project that has made a real impact through the innovative use of cutting-edge technology.
“Therefore we’re delighted to have received this funding to expand the scope and look at how virtual reality and extended reality might be used to help people with long Covid.
“Along with our current partners we’ll be working with University College Cork so will be extending the geographic reach of the project as well.
“The research will involve an element of development and evaluation of new tools which will involve companies from across Europe and could well be an opportunity for local and regional businesses to get involved and help develop products.
“We’re very excited about the potential for this next stage and the VR4Rehab Congress promises to deliver a genuine insight into how this technology has been adapted and used.”
For more information on VR4Rehab and the VR4Rehab congress visit vr4rehab.org.