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Technology for upper limb rehab: our experience with GripAble

By Natalia Masztalerz, Assistant Psychology (Outcome Measures)

We have been working together with Jenny Woodgate, Clinical Lead Physiotherapist, and our colleagues at Kerwin Court to think about the new technologies that are boosting improved outcomes for patients who require upper limb rehabilitation.

GripAble is an example of such technologies. It has the potential to be of great value to people with brain injury in their road to recovery.

This technology could come in especially useful when people are working towards regaining their independence and are being discharged from hospital or from inpatient rehab back home. The adjustment from hospital to home environments can be challenging, and often individuals can experience fluctuating motivation to engage in their regular exercises as these can be repetitive and tedious.

GripAble applies the concept of gamification and instant feedback to keep people engaged in their treatment program. In the words of a stroke survivor, advocate, and GripAble user, “Progress is motivation to strive yet further […]”!

Gamification, which is the application of typical elements of gameplaying (for example point scoring or competition with others) in the context of rehabilitation, has yielded positive results thus far [1]. Users comment on the benefits of collaborative multiplayer engagement in their therapy, which promotes communication, social inclusion and positive team-work.

As those who work in rehabilitation settings know too well, repetition is a fundamental part of recovery from brain injury. Repetition helps to strengthen the brain and body, by building neural connections and stronger muscles, and facilitates learning by creating more opportunities for our brain to process and store information. If only repetition could always be made fun! This is where GripAble comes in handy.

Exercises “don’t feel like rehab” due to GripAble’s engaging interface and comfortable sensorimotor feedback [2]. Preliminary studies have found that users respond positively to this, as measured by the number of repetitions they engage in per day. Individuals participating in their treatment as usual performed on average 15 repetitions of exercises targeting their upper limb impairment.

Those who using GripAble performed 104 repetitions [3]. Participants in the GripAble group also exercised twice as long as their treatment as usual counterparts (exercising for 51 minutes on average, compared with 26 minutes). GripAble users also self-reported positive influences on their self-esteem through engaging in this type of rehabilitation as an additional benefit [4].

Because this study was conducted within a short period of time (4 months), and the effects were only monitored immediately after therapy, it is not yet possible to determine how long they will last. Consequently, more research on this tool needs to be conducted, and we await the results with enthusiasm.

A few Brainkind services are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to trial GripAble with the people we support, so please keep an eye out for updates on how this was received in future editions of Research!

References

  • [1] Kemp, A. H., Arias, J. A., & Fisher, Z. (2017). Social ties, health and wellbeing: a literature review and model. Neuroscience and social science: The missing link, 397-427
  • [2] Seligman, M, Steen T, Park N and Peterson, C.  Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions. Am psychol 2005 July – August;60 (5):410 – 421
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