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PainJun 3, 2024

Virtual reality headsets prove to be boon for patients receiving treatment, say trauma physios

London-based physiotherapist Elly Tebbutt has been impressed by the effectiveness of virtual reality headsets when she’s treating patients who are recovering from a physical trauma.

Elly is part of a team at St George’s Hospital in Tooting – the major trauma centre for south west London and Surrey – which has been offering seriously-injured patients the chance to trial the technology as part of their regular therapy. 

In an article appearing on the trust’s website, Elly said: ‘We’ve had really positive feedback from the 50 or so people who have trialled the virtual reality headsets. Patients say it helps them to move more easily and manage their pain, in a fun and engaging way.’  

Jack Fowler-Thick, an 18-year-old who was badly injured in a motorcycle accept, was injured during a bedside therapy session on the major trauma ward led by Elly. He said: ‘I look forward to this part of the day the best. No one wants to end up in hospital, and this makes me forget that I’m here.’ 

Photo Credit: St George’s University Hospitals NHS Trust
Inpatient Jack Fowler-Thick, 18, is pictured alongside trauma physiotherapist Elly Tebbutt

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The headset offers a series of personalised games, such as boxing and archery, and encourages patients like Jack to ‘move through pain – ultimately speeding up recovery. 

Jack is pictured engaging in a fruit-picking simulation, watched on by Elly. ‘When I played this yesterday, I was in a lot of pain, I found it really hard to move, but I felt much better after using the headset,' he said. 

On a neighbouring ward, Becky Perry has an open femur fracture – as well as some rib injuries from a previous incident – and requires intensive therapy after a horse-rising accident. 

‘It makes me forget that I’m in hospital,' she said as she was led through a physiotherapy session by trauma specialist Beth Kenny, moving her arms to pick apples from a tree.

‘Mentally it helps, because I just push through the pain, and I feel like it’s helping my movement and making me stretch more. You forget that you’re doing it. The woman in the bed opposite me was laughing so much the other day, I must have looked so silly – but it really does help. I definitely think other patients would benefit, I’d recommend it to anyone,' she added.

We’ve had really positive feedback from the 50 or so people who have trialled the virtual reality headsets. Patients say it helps them to move more easily and manage their pain, in a fun and engaging way [Elly Tebbutt]

Beth said: ‘Recovering from a life-changing injury can be painful and scary, and patients often worry their injury could become worse when they start moving around. Our virtual reality headsets encourage patients like Becky and Jack to move through the pain in a safe way and effective way.’ 

As far Elly and her colleagues are aware, no other major trauma centre is currently using virtual reality equipment to help to rehabilitate in-patients. 

Kate Slemeck, St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s managing director, noted: ‘Every month our dedicated specialist emergency doctors, nurses, therapists and other staff treat 150 major-trauma patients.'

She added: 'We’re very proud of the outstanding care they provide – from lifesaving surgery and psychological support – to these virtual reality sessions, which clearly are a huge benefit to our patients.’  

To access the full version of the article, click

Author: Ian A McMillan
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