You probably never thought it’d happen, but it turns out that video games may actually have benefits for patients needing physical therapy… No, this isn’t an alternate reality or a fake news article — patients young and old are actually taking to glowing screens for sessions of Wii-hab!
In case you’re unfamiliar with the world of video gaming, Nintendo’s Wii console is a motion-based system utilizing TV-remote style controllers to track players movements on screen. And while it’s not even the latest gaming craze out there, physical therapists have been finding ways to incorporate the system with their patient’s therapy regimens for some positive outcomes. Of course, there are limits to what “digital exercise” can produce, yet having an extra trick up your sleeve when it comes to engaging your patients never hurts!
Who is Wii-hab for?
What’s great about the Wii system is that unlike other, more esoteric gaming consoles it is designed for maximum accessibility no matter someone’s age. Children and senior citizens alike can take advantage of what the system can provide, requiring only basic upper extremity movements and the ability to grasp a controller. Sure, it won’t provide the precisely targeted therapies someone may need, but Wii-hab can have distinct benefits for patients — especially with the use of the Wii Fit Balance Board.
Games and Devices for Wii-hab
So to start with the basics, it has to be acknowledged that not all of the games for Nintendo’s Wii make for great physical therapy tools — that’s to say Resident Evil should not be your first choice here…
The best games for physical therapy are titles Wii Sports and Wii Fit, along with others like Just Dance, Zumba Fitness World Party, and Active Life Explorer. Each of these titles will require either a camera, special electronic mats, or the Wii Fit Balance Board in order to get the most out of the gameplay. Relatively speaking, these systems are very easy to set up and the devices are designed to be as accessible as possible.
Why Wii-Hab Works
For some, physical therapy can feel like a burden, an activity that would rather be avoided altogether. But, working with a Wii system is a way to create an environment to help ease patients’ apprehensions about therapy, while also providing some motivation and dare I say it… FUN during the session!
With games like boxing, golf, tennis, skiing, and even jogging along with many others, patients can achieve goals while working on their range of movement in a variety of different ways. Most of the games on Wii Sports will center on arm or torso movement, while Wii Fit provides a range of different motions. What’s cool is that the Wii Fit Balance Board has the ability to evaluate someone’s ability to balance, their weight, along with tracking someone’s progress to see how effective the gameplay has been. Other games centered on dancing and very active movements may not be fit for everyone, but they can definitely work up a sweat if needed!
On the other hand, games like Mario Party or Carnival Games focus on fine movements, particular gestures, and even memorization — all things that can be useful in an occupational therapy setting. Really, it’s all about evaluating the needs of your patient and seeing which titles can work best for them.
It’s not All Fun and Games…
While the Nintendo Wii can seem like a wonder toy, there are some things to consider when implementing the system in your physical therapy practice. Firstly, you definitely don’t want to do more harm than good, so it’s best to supervise game play to avoid hyperextending joints or related injuries. Additionally, staring at screens for too long can cause eye strain, motions sickness, and even seizures in epileptic patients or those at risk.
That said, make sure your shoes are tied and that remote is secured to make the most of your physical therapy Wii-hab!