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Meet Virtual Reality, Your New Physical Therapist

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Michael Heinrich, who lost the use of the lower half of his body after an accident, undergoes virtual reality therapy.

Researchers and therapists say virtual reality has shown great promise for physical and occupational therapy.

Credit: Michigan Medicine

Four years ago, Michael Heinrich was riding his motorcycle on the University of Michigan campus when a rotted tree fell on him and snapped his neck, causing him to permanently lose use of the lower half of his body. He spent weeks in intensive care and then went to inpatient rehabilitation for more than two months,

About halfway through his rehab stint, his occupational therapist, Michael Blackstock, asked whether he was interested in trying virtual reality for his therapy. Mr. Heinrich, now 26 — who is returning for his master's at the university — was game.

"What I really enjoyed was being an eagle trying to go through rings," he said, describing a virtual reality experience. "From an emotional standpoint, coming off an injury where I lost the majority of the use of my body, V.R. pushed the boundaries of what I thought was possible."


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