How Video Games Can Help Treat Chronic Back Pain

Most researchers have listed out the negative effects of video games on physical and psychological health. However, in this controversial review, video game may help relieve chronic low back pain.

Early studies have concluded that video games negatively impact certain types of cognitive performance. For others, video games offer more prospect to remain sitting in our increasingly sedentary lives.

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Now, amid all the contradicting debates, researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia are trying to prove that video games help in relieving chronic low back pain.

The link between back pain and video games

The seniors are most commonly affected, and over time, the condition tends to get deteriorate, creating a negative impact on the ability of an individual to move around and complete daily activities.

A new study, published in the journal Physical Therapy, observed chronic low back pain in people over the age of 55. The researchers examined the benefits of self-managed, home-based video game exercises on a Nintendo Wii-Fit-U. It is worth noting that the researchers received no funding from Nintendo.

Participants numbering 60 were asked to carry out video game-guided exercises three times every week for 8 weeks; each session lasted 1 hour.

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These were all carried out unsupervised and at home. Their results were compared with those of a group who carried out the same exercises but under the guidance of a physiotherapist.

The video game-aided exercises produced measurable benefits. As lead researcher Dr. Joshua Zadro explains, “[P]articipants experienced a 27 percent reduction in pain and a 23 percent increase in function from the exercises.”

According to Dr. Zadro, “Structured exercise programs are recommended for the management of chronic low back pain, but there is poor compliance to unsupervised home-exercises.”

He claims, “Our study, however, had high compliance to video game exercises, with participants completing on average 85 percent of recommended sessions.”

READ ALSO: Low Back Pain: Causes, Treatment options and Prevention

Dr. Zadro thinks that compliance was relatively good in this study because the video game gives clear instructions, encouragement, and feedback; the cooperative experience also provides participants with a score, which improves motivation.

The scientists believe that supporting exercise for low back pain in this way could help lots of people.

“This home-based program has great potential as supervised physiotherapy visits can be costly, and people who live in remote or rural areas can face barriers accessing these services,” he explains.

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“Older people with poor physical functioning also prefer home-based exercises as traveling to treatment facilities can be difficult.”

According to Senior study author Paulo Ferreira, an associate professor;

“Given the enormous global cost of chronic low back pain, increasing an individual’s capacity to self-manage their pain, while reducing the need for therapist supervision, should be a priority.”

Being able to do these exercises unsupervised at home would be a convenient and cheap solution as the video game modules are relatively cheap. The exercises could be completed at a time to suit the patient and fit easily into their schedule.


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