Can Video Games Reduce Chronic Back Pain?

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

Low Right Back Pain

Poor posture during a gaming session can certainly lead to spine pain down the road, but new research out of the University of Sydney found that in the right environment, video games can actually help to reduce instances of chronic low back pain. According to the study, home-based video game exercises can decrease chronic low back pain in older individuals by up to 27 percent, which is similar to the benefits gained under programs supervised by a physiotherapist.

For the study, researchers examined the effectiveness of self-managed home-based video game exercises in individuals over the age of 55 with chronic low back pain using the Nintendo Wii-Fit-U. Not only would it be easier for patients to exercise from the comfort of their home, but these exercises could be more accessible than visiting a physiotherapist.

Dr. Joshua Zadro, a physiotherapist and postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Sydney School of Public Health, said the study showed encouraging results.

“Our study found that home-based video game exercises are a valuable treatment option for older people suffering from chronic low back pain as participants experienced a 27 perfect reduction in pain and a 23 percent increase in function from the exercises,” said Dr. Zadro.

Video Game Exercises

For the study, individuals with chronic low back pain practiced flexibility, strengthening and aerobic exercises for 60 minutes a day, three times a week through the video game system without therapist supervision. A control group also performed a similar routine under the guidance of a physiotherapist. At the end of eight weeks, the effects of the video game therapy was similar to the effects of the physiotherapist-guided program.

“Structured exercise programs are recommended for the management of chronic LBP, but there is poor compliance to unsupervised home-exercises,” said Dr. Zadro. “Our study however had high compliance to video-game exercises, with participating completing on average 85 percent of recommended sessions.”

One of the reasons why Dr. Zadro believes that the video game-based therapy program was successful was because the interactive features and performance scores were more motivating than standard therapy.

“Video game exercises are interactive, have video and audio instructions, provide feedback on a patient’s technique and scores them on the basis of their performance,” said Dr. Zadro. “These features are extremely motivating and likely explain why compliance to this program was much higher than other trials that have instructed patients to exercise without supervision.”

Obviously these home based video game exercises have both benefits and drawbacks. While they might be more stimulating and easier to access on their own time for the patient, the individuals may also be at an increased risk for injury if they suffer a fall or can’t perform an exercise while they are unsupervised.

If you are experiencing chronic back pain, have it diagnosed by a doctor and ask them if adding home-based exercises may be beneficial. They can help set you up with a therapy plan that can put an end to your back pain. For more information or to talk to a specialist, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.

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