"The ability to perform physical activities of normal daily living is a crucial factor for a healthy and fulfilling life. Across the lifespan illnesses and ageing factors affecting the physical or nervous systems of the body can compromise one's capacity to live an independent life. Appropriate rehabilitation has the potential to restore the individual to their optimum physical capability and to reduce the impact of illness on their physical and mental wellbeing. Conversely, poor rehabilitation can leave the individual with significant problems causing reliance on others, leaving the individual prone to further illness affecting their overall wellbeing. We are currently suffering an epidemic of such health conditions, many of which are mobility-related, a situation we can expect to worsen as the population ages increasing the loading on health services.
Our project aims to improve rehabilitation services and the treatments they deliver to individuals using an innovative method of visualising scientific information about the stresses, strains, and movements of muscles and joints which is usually impossible for lay individuals, and non-specialist professionals to understand. The visual method is easy and quick to understand by lay people, yet still contains all the very accurate scientific information for specialists if required. We have already trialled this method with healthy older adults and witnessed how this has helped rapidly develop their understanding of their mobility problems, improve their two-way communication with a range of healthcare professionals, helped different professionals speak to one another about these problems, and improved professionals? understanding of mobility problems.
We can now see potential applications of this visual method to help in improving motivation and feedback for healthy exercise in older people, reduce falls in the elderly, to improve both coordination and mobility following knee-replacement surgery and after stroke. We plan to trial this method in each of these areas separately, using a team of individuals to include leading specialists, healthcare workers, and patients, all of whom will inform us as to the best way to develop and use the visual method during treatment. We will also explore miniaturised technologies, easily wearable in the home, so freeing our exploration of treatments from clinical and laboratory settings. If these trials are successful, they have the potential to enhance understanding, improve and speed recovery, reduce inconvenience and cost to patients, aid employment and also to be applied to a range of other conditions, for example children with cerebral palsy."