Use of virtual reality to enhance balance and ambulation in chronic stroke: a double-blind, randomized controlled study

Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2009 Sep;88(9):693-701. doi: 10.1097/PHM.0b013e3181b33350.


Objective: To examine an additive effect of virtual reality on balance and gait function in patients with chronic hemiparetic stroke.

Design: Twenty-four adults with hemiparetic stroke were randomly assigned to either an experimental group (n = 12) or a control group. Both groups underwent conventional physical therapy, 40 mins a day, 4 days a week for 4 wks. The experimental group received an additional 30 mins of virtual reality therapy each session. Balance performance was determined by the Balance Performance Monitor and Berg Balance Scale tests. Gait performance was determined by the 10-m walking test and Modified Motor Assessment Scale, and spatiotemporal parameters were obtained using GAITRite. Analysis of variance and correlation statistics were performed at P < 0.05.

Results: In the balance test, the experimental group had improved Berg Balance Scale scores, balance and dynamic balance angles (ability to control weight shifting) compared with the controls (P < 0.05). In the gait performance test, the experimental group showed significant improvements in velocity, Modified Motor Assessment Scale scores, cadence, step time, step length, and stride length (P < 0.05). Improvement in dynamic balance angles was correlated with velocity and cadence (P < 0.01).

Conclusions: This study demonstrates that virtual reality has an augmented effect on balance and associated locomotor recovery in adults with hemiparetic stroke when added to conventional therapy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / etiology
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paresis / etiology
  • Paresis / rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Postural Balance*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Stroke / complications
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*
  • User-Computer Interface*