Virtual reality and pain free exercise

A La Trobe University researcher has found a way for people with knee pain to exercise – pain free.

Dr Ebonie Rio has been awarded a $286,891 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant to undertake research on the use of virtual reality glasses for people with knee pain.

Dr Rio said people with knee pain may not do the exercises given to them by their physio because they were time consuming, boring or painful to do.

She said the virtual reality goggles could take people “anywhere they wanted to go” and this may make the exercises more enjoyable.

Knee pain affects more than 20 per cent of the population. Exercise is the most effective treatment, but patients don’t always stick with it. However Dr Rio said current rehabilitation practices failed to address the complex changes in the way the brain controls muscles.

Dr Rio will investigate exercise combined with neuroscience techniques such as using virtual reality glasses. Pilot testing showed manipulating vision using virtual reality during exercise could reduce knee pain and allow people to exercise.

More research could radically change rehabilitation practices, not just for knees but other musculoskeletal conditions too, she said.

“We can put people in any place, anywhere. We are giving the brain different information about movement and can make the exercises more enjoyable,” she said.

La Trobe University researchers last year received more than $3.8 million in grants from the NHMRC, Australia’s peak health and medical research funding organisation.

The NHMRC will support eight La Trobe researchers through either the Early Career Fellowship, Senior Research Fellowship or Partnerships Projects schemes.

La Trobe Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Keith Nugent said five La Trobe researchers would receive a total of more than $1.5 million in Early Career Fellowship grants.

“La Trobe has had a 50 per cent success rate in applications for Early Career Fellowship this year - our best result in five years,” Professor Nugent said.

“The Fellowships are highly sought after and only a limited number are awarded each year. Our success is a reflection of the quality of our research at this level.”

For more information on the study, email

Media contact: Sally Heppleston – - 9479 5353 / 0408 556 018