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Robot-assisted rehabilitation

 

Movement is life, life is movement. Movement disorders result in serious functional restrictions of mobility in the affected extremities and by this handicap the execution of even daily activities. Patients suffer from the consequences of their physical handicap for a lifetime. This affects the patient’s personal quality of life and leads to a significant financial burden for the health care system. Especially the loss of quality of life, but also the financial burden for the health care system require innovative rudiments of retention respectively rehabilitation of the capability of movement.

 

Rehabilitation on the basis of neurophysiology

The basic therapy for movement disorders is still physical therapy. Its primary goal is the rehabilitation of motor functions, if necessary also their retention as well as the prevention of secondary failures. Thereby achievement of higher autonomy and better integration in family and society life has high priority.

This is especially important if the movement restrictions are caused by damages of the central nervous system (CNS), for example as a consequence of a cerebrovascular accident which cannot be fixed primarily. In particular for this group of patients the repetitive, self-motivated practice of movement sequences results in remarkable improvement of movement ability. Background for this so called rehabilitation on the basis of neurophysiology is the assumption of a cortical plasticity. Due to this cortical plasticity, the brain continuously reorganises until adult hood. This implies that lost or missing motor abilities can be relearned by motor learning. Rehabilitation on the basis of neurophysiology is most effective if a 5 to 10 minutes repetitive training of uniform movements can be guaranteed at least twice a day. As a consequence of high costs, there is often an insufficient number of experts so that the practice units can usually be performed just in a deficient frequency.

The requirement for frequent, repetitive training suggests a robot-based rehabilitation in which a robot initiates the movement and in doing so considers the patients current state, his learning and therapy success and his individual therapy plan. Thus the patient can be given the possibility to perform the exercises autonomously and with sufficient frequency without the need of further therapeutic personnel.

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