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A system for head-neck rehabilitation exercises based on serious gaming and virtual reality

Abstract

Acute and chronic neck pain are common medical conditions, and the treatment typically includes physical therapy involving daily exercises. Insufficient motivation of people afflicted with neck pain to adhere to the prescribed exercise regimen may delay their recovery. Accordingly, in this work, we propose a system that motivates the users to perform neck exercises by engaging them in a serious exergame within virtual reality (VR) environment. The system measures the users’ neck movements via a few static and dynamic kinematic tests and a novel VR serious game, tailored to the neck range of motion of each individual user. The game is designed to make the users perform rehabilitative neck movements according to the prescribed exercise regimen while playing. The analysis of acquired data from VR hardware provides insight into flexibility of the neck during head movements and overall neck kinematics, which is valuable for assessment of pain-related stiffness, as well as for progress monitoring. In a user study performed with the proposed system and the Oculus Rift DK2 VR headset, we show that the users find exercising more interesting and engaging when using the proposed system, and that introducing visually rich VR environments makes the users more motivated to continue exercising.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank several students who participated in the realization of the basic framework in this project, especially Ivan Hakštok, Bruno Pregun and Renato Zaneto Lukež.

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Correspondence to Zeljka Mihajlovic.

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Mihajlovic, Z., Popovic, S., Brkic, K. et al. A system for head-neck rehabilitation exercises based on serious gaming and virtual reality. Multimed Tools Appl 77, 19113–19137 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11042-017-5328-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11042-017-5328-z

Keywords

  • Serious game
  • Virtual reality
  • Neck
  • Exercise