Effects of Virtual Reality Therapy on Gait and Balance Among Individuals With Spinal Cord Injury: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Libak Abou, Vonjiniaina Domohina Malala, Rebecca Yarnot, Aditya Alluri, Laura A. Rice

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background and Purpose. The use of virtual reality (VR) therapy among individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) is a relatively new rehabilitation approach replicating real-life scenarios. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of VR therapy for improving gait and balance in individuals with SCI. Methods. Databases of PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus, SportDiscuss, and CINHAL were searched from inception until September 2019. Two independent reviewers screened articles for inclusion, extracted data, and evaluated methodological quality of the trials. Results. Ten trials, including 3 randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and 7 pre-post trials, with a total of 149 participants were analyzed. Meta-analysis of RCTs demonstrated significant improvement in sitting balance (standardized mean difference [SMD] = 1.65; 95% CI 1.21-2.09; P <.01) after VR therapy with conventional rehabilitation compared with only conventional rehabilitation. Also, pre-post studies using VR therapy without a control group showed improvement in standing balance (Berg Balance Scale, MD = 4.22; 95% CI 1.78-6.66; P <.01 and Activities-specific Balance Confidence scale, MD = 8.53; 95% CI 2.52-14.53; P =.01) and a trend for improvement in gait (SMD = 0.34; 95% CI 0.02-0.66; P =.04). Conclusion. This study demonstrated the beneficial effects of VR therapy to enhance sitting and standing balance and showed a trend of gait improvement in individuals with SCI. This conclusion is based on mainly preliminary data and therefore, more RCTs are needed to confirm the effects of the use of VR in individuals with SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-388
Number of pages14
JournalNeurorehabilitation and Neural Repair
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • gait
  • postural balance
  • spinal cord injuries
  • systematic review
  • virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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