The most common complaint people have as they start getting older is pain in places they haven’t experienced it before. This often occurs in the joints, knees, and in the back. If left untreated, the condition will worsen and become more debilitating with age. Many times, treatment plans for this type of low-intensity chronic pain are some combination of medication and physiotherapy routines.
But, the University of Sydney recently published a study that claims that at-home video game-based exercise programs can potentially replace physiotherapy in the treatment of lower back pain in the elderly.
The study consisted of 66 participants aged 55 and older with chronic lower back pain. They were randomly assigned to two treatment groups: no therapy (the control group) and at-home therapy (the experimental group). Those in the control group were instructed to simply continue their normal activities over the course of eight weeks. Those in the experimental group underwent an eight-week exercise program using the Wii Fit U video game console in their homes.
“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 percent reduction in pain and a 23 percent increase in function from the exercises,” said Dr. Joshua Zadro, one of the researchers on the study.
“Participants practiced flexibility, strengthening, and aerobic exercises for 60 minutes, three times per week at home without therapist supervision, and the effect of the eight-week video game program was comparable to exercise programs completed under the supervision of a physiotherapist.”
Video Game Exercise Has Higher Compliance Rates Than Normal Exercise
Generally speaking, there are low compliance rates to at-home exercise programs, despite structured exercise programs being the most effective way to manage chronic pain in the lower back. Often, people simply are not motivated to perform exercises alone in their own homes. For this study, however, the participants displayed an 85 percent compliance rate, meaning they completed an average of 85 percent of the recommended exercise sessions.
“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. 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,” said Zadro. “These exercise programs could be a unique solution to increase older people’s motivation to self-manage their chronic LBP through home-exercise and improve their ability to continue with their daily activities despite having pain.”
There are many benefits to home-based physiotherapy programs, especially for those who may have mobility issues or live in a more rural area and have difficulty accessing medical services regularly. A video game-based treatment plan can also lower costs for some patients, as the expense associated with it is a one-time cost of purchasing the console and exercise game that is being recommended.
On top of that, self-management is the most effective form of treatment for chronic pain in the lower back and these video game programs offer patients a fun and easy way to individualize their exercise program.
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