What is Theratainment?

May 06, 2019

Simply stated, Theratainment is the use of entertainment during therapeutic treatment. We here at Motus Nova make keen use of Theratainment to help clients stay focused on a fun task while using our therapeutic device.

Why Theratainment? It Makes Stroke Therapy Fun
Let’s face it—stroke rehabilitation is tedious business. Any physical therapy is. If you’ve had a knee replacement, surgery for a torn ligament or other orthopedic procedure, the drill is the same: You’re given a series of exercises to perform on a regular basis to regain movement and range of motion, to heal properly and get back to normal life ASAP.

For an orthopedic procedure, a regimen of several therapy sessions a week for 12 weeks or so, along with regular work at home, is usually enough for recovery. That’s only a fraction of the therapy required after stroke and other neurological injuries.

Why? Because in neurological cases, the brain has been injured. The brain needs therapy to restructure synaptic connections that were lost in the injury and that must be regained for recovery to take place. Studies show that the process can take hundreds of hours of therapy to stimulate the brain’s neuroplastic capacity to make those new connections.

That’s the reason for our theratainment approach at Motus Nova.

Users forget they are doing therapy
Incorporating interactive video games in our stroke rehab system helps make the therapy less tedious, even fun–hence the new word we’ve coined: theratainment. We think it nicely captures the approach we have taken to help stroke survivors stay with their therapy for the long haul.

How does it work? A Motus Nova Hand Mentor or Foot Mentor fits like a sleeve over the impaired hand or leg. It is a robotic, active-assist rehabilitation device that mimics the movements a physical or occupational therapist would perform with the individual, allowing the individual to slowly begin to perform the movements on his or her own with varying degrees of resistance or assistance. The goal is to help stroke survivors improve range of motion, strength and motor function, subsequently reducing impairment and enhancing the quality of life.

The device is attached to a 22-inch touch screen which the individual can use to play easy-to-understand games. The movements required to play the games, such as Pong, Space Invaders, Green Golf, Balloon Rider and others, are part of a therapeutic program to help the individual slowly regain use of the impaired arm or leg.

Resounding support for the approach
It’s always gratifying to see stroke survivors and clinicians try our theratainment approach. At a recent demo of the Hand Mentor for the physical medicine and rehabilitation chair at a top teaching hospital, Green Golf was a favorite. The physician quickly grasped how the game encourages the correct hand movements to facilitate stroke recovery—all at the level of the individual’s current capabilities—and do so in a much more entertaining way than, in his words, “just working with a stretch band every day.”

The physician could feel his wrist had had a workout after playing the game, and could readily see how the intensity and duration of the games could be adjusted by the device’s built-in artificial intelligence (AI) to challenge the individual to go a step further each time. He even suggested we develop a social gaming component where stroke survivors could challenge their caregivers to play the games with them, thus enhancing the motivational aspects of theratainment. (We have been working on social gaming for our system and hope to release the feature soon.)

Theratainment played a major role in his agreement to work as a partner with us in recommending our system to stroke survivors at the hospitals where he practices, their loved ones, and caregivers, much the same way clinics prescribe the CPAP device for patients with sleep apnea. It was a great demo, and we look forward to many more as we market our version of the Hand and Foot Mentors for home use. We can’t do it without the support of the clinicians who work with stroke survivors—and we are getting it.

Appeal to Baby Boomers and others
You’ll note that the games we have chosen—like Pong, which was one of the earliest arcade video games and all the rage in the 1970s—are deliberate throwbacks to games that today’s stroke survivors, typically members of the Baby Boom generation, can relate to. But stroke survivors come in all ages, and we’ll be adding other games that might have more appeal to younger generations. For now, however, we are pleased and energized by the response our theratainment approach is receiving, and by the results, it is delivering for stroke survivors of all ages.