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Healing Your Back Could be as Simple as Child’s Play

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Want a fun way to help relieve your back pain? How about playing some video games? No, not the kind that keep you glued to your seat for hours on end; we’re talking about games played on the Nintendo® Wii™, a console that relies on body movements for its motion-related games.

Since its introduction, the Wii has been the subject of physical therapy studies that have tried to determine if using this device can help relieve physical symptoms of specific types of diseases and health conditions, and the results have been encouraging.

Studies have found using the Wii regularly can help improve balance, upper body strength and visual function in some groups of patients, and one study even found it can help people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) breathe more easily. Now, a study says it can help people who suffer from work-related back pain, too.

Just think, residents in greater Seattle and other parts of Washington suffering from lower back pain or chronic neck and back discomfort, can get relief by acting like a 10 year old and play video games. How crazy is that?

Now, it’s true that just about any regular program of physical fitness can help improve symptoms in lots of health conditions, but the key is getting people to actually stick with their exercise routines. And that’s where the Wii really shines. As it turns out, most people find playing a game on the Wii to be a lot more fun than traditional exercise routines, and as a result, they’re more likely to exercise more regularly and stick with regular therapeutic programs. This is not neck and back pain management, this is fun.

And that fun effect has other benefits too: For instance, in the back pain study, participants who used the Wii on a regular basis not only had better physical health, but reported better emotional health, with relief of anxiety and stress commonly associated with chronic back pain.

But before you raid your kid’s room and claim the Wii as your own, take note: Not every Wii game has been tested for health improvement, so if you have your heart set on a daily dose of Mario Kart, you may be disappointed. In this study, for instance, a Wii sports program was used, including games that simulate Wakeboarding, canoeing, tennis and throwing a Frisbee™ to a virtual dog. If these activities sound more fun than a regular exercise routine, it may be time to invest in a Wii of your own.

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