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From Science Fiction to Reality: How Robotics is Changing the Future of Physiotherapy

 

Physiotherapy is an ever-evolving profession, and with the advancements in technology, it’s taking a new direction. One of the newest and most exciting developments in physiotherapy is the use of robotics. The integration of robotics in physiotherapy is revolutionizing the way physical therapy is conducted, offering unparalleled precision, and significantly improving outcomes for patients. As the field of physiotherapy continues to grow, robotics is becoming an increasingly popular area of research, with new and innovative techniques emerging regularly. In this article, we’ll explore how robotics is changing the face of physiotherapy and the exciting possibilities this brings for patients and practitioners alike. Get ready to be amazed by the incredible advancements happening in the world of robotics and physiotherapy.

First of all, why robotics? Why spend so much time and energy? Is it feasible? Is it really worth the money and time? robotic therapy is a therapy that is enhanced by technology that greatly advances rehabilitation medicine. People who have used robotics rehabilitation know how effective these can be, as they have witnessed an increase in the number of times a patient performs a given therapy exercise. Repetitive exercises are the key to improved functions.

The robots also incorporate video games, thus bringing an element of play into the therapy sessions. Aside from this, the robots record the data from each session, which can be beneficial in measuring gains, tracking improvement, and reassuring patients that progress can be achieved, so they should keep doing more. Rehabilitation robots help physiotherapists ensure that patients are performing the exercises properly. They often support the patient’s body weight so they can do the exercises for extended periods before the sessions end.

Robotics physiotherapy includes using a wide range of electro-mechanical-assisted training devices, some are stationary, and others are portable. The purpose of these devices is to retrain the patients in their body functions that were affected by neurological or traumatic events, such as Parkinson’s Disease, Cerebral Palsy, Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury, Spinal Cord Injury, and Multiple Sclerosis. This may also include impaired functioning in the elderly.

Robotic rehabilitation technology is a great opportunity for rehabilitation clinics and therapists to deliver high-dosage and high-intensity training for patients with physical disabilities. At the same time, it is also offloading the burden on therapists.

 

Some benefits you can expect from using robotic technology in therapy:

  • High-dosage and high-intensity training
  • Lower burden on therapists
  • Saves time and resources
  • Safe handling

There are mainly two types of robots that are used in the field of rehabilitation – End-effector based robots & powered exoskeletons.

End-effector-based robots are a type of robotic system used in the field of physiotherapy. These robots are designed to assist patients in their rehabilitation by providing targeted exercises to specific parts of the body.

At their core, end-effector robots are robotic arms that have a mechanism, such as a gripper or a cuff, at the end of the arm that can hold onto and manipulate objects. In the context of physiotherapy, the end-effector is typically a cuff or a handgrip that can be attached to a patient’s limb or appendage. The robot arm is then used to move the patient’s limb through a prescribed range of motion, providing resistance or assistance as needed.

End-effector robots were first introduced in the field of physiotherapy in the early 2000s. Since then, they have become increasingly popular as an effective tool for improving patient outcomes.

End-effector robots are used in a variety of ways in physiotherapy. One of the most common uses is for upper limb rehabilitation. Patients who have suffered a stroke or other injury that has affected their ability to move their arm or hand can benefit greatly from exercises provided by an end-effector robot. These robots can help patients regain their range of motion, strength, and dexterity, which can significantly improve their quality of life. End-effector robots are also used for lower limb rehabilitation. Patients who have suffered a spinal cord injury or other lower limb injury can benefit from exercises that target their legs and feet. The robot arm can be used to move the patient’s leg through a range of motion, providing resistance or assistance as needed.

The benefits of end-effector robots in physiotherapy are numerous. First and foremost, these robots provide precise, targeted exercises that can be tailored to each patient’s unique needs. They also allow for a greater degree of control and consistency in the delivery of exercises, which can lead to faster and more effective rehabilitation. Additionally, end-effector robots can reduce the strain on physiotherapists, who no longer need to provide as much hands-on assistance during exercises. Overall, end-effector robots are an exciting development in the field of physiotherapy and offer great potential for improving patient outcomes.

Robotic technologies attempt to leverage the principles of neuroplasticity by improving the quality of movement and increasing the intensity and repetition of the task. Over the last two decades, research into robot-mediated therapy for the rehabilitation of stroke patients has grown significantly as the potential for cheaper and more effective therapy has been identified. An additional benefit to this type of adaptive robotic therapy is a marked decrease in spasticity and muscle tone in the affected arm. Different spatial orientations of the robot allow for horizontal or vertical motion or a combination in a variety of planes. The vertical, anti-gravity setting is particularly useful for improving shoulder and elbow function.

Powered exoskeletons, also known as exosuits or wearable robots, are mechanical devices that are designed to augment or assist human movement. They consist of a rigid frame that supports the wearer’s body, as well as motors, sensors, and other components that enable the device to move in response to the wearer’s movements.

The concept of powered exoskeletons has been around for several decades, but it was not until the early 2000s that the technology began to mature and become more practical. The first exoskeleton to receive FDA clearance for use in rehabilitation was the ReWalk system, which was developed by an Israeli company called Argo Medical Technologies and approved in 2014. Exoskeletons are used in a variety of rehabilitation settings, including spinal cord injury, stroke, and neurological disorders. They can help patients to regain their mobility and independence, by providing support and assistance with walking and other activities of daily living.

In stroke rehabilitation, exoskeletons can be used to improve gait training and promote neuroplasticity. The device can assist with leg movements and provide feedback to the patient, which can help to improve their walking ability over time.

In spinal cord injury rehabilitation, exoskeletons can be used to help patients stand and walk again. By providing support and assistance to the lower body, exoskeletons can help patients to regain their independence and improve their quality of life.

Exoskeletons are also being used in research studies to investigate the effects of gait training on various conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

Exoskeletons use a combination of robotics and biomechatronics to enable body independence and are designed to provide support rather than replace functionality. In physical rehabilitation, they help patients relearn skills. In construction, they reduce the amount of energy expended and make repetitive tasks easier. Powered exoskeletons represent a promising technology for rehabilitation, providing a new way to help patients regain their mobility and independence after injury or illness.

Robotics in physiotherapy has the potential to revolutionize rehabilitation by providing new and innovative ways to help patients regain their mobility and independence. While the concept is still relatively new and much research still needs to be done, the results so far are promising. The use of robotic devices in physiotherapy can provide patients with more personalized and effective rehabilitation programs, which can help to improve outcomes and reduce recovery times. As the technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see even more advanced and sophisticated robotics being developed for use in physiotherapy. Overall, robotics in physiotherapy represents a promising field with the potential to transform the way we approach rehabilitation in the future.

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