Could the Wii make chronic pain a better-understood problem? Will there soon be Wii-certified therapists? Will parents now hear begging like this, “Hey Mom, I think I have chronic pain. I need a Wii to get better!”
If you haven’t heard about the Wii, it’s the newest fad. Created by Nintendo, it’s an interactive game that uses a tv screen to show games such as bowling, boxing, tennis, and playing the guitar. Players hold a wand that picks up their body movements, and translates that into action on the tv. In the bowling game, for example, you go through the motions of bowling while holding a wand, and “your” ball rolls down the alley and hits the pins, depending on how well you’ve “bowled.” And 2 players can play interactively in games likes tennis.
How does this relate to chronic pain?
RSD/CRPS World News Group recently mentioned a newspaper article about a Wii being donated to a rehabilitation hospital, and how it helped a young boy with RSD, a severe, chronic pain, neuroligical condition.
Games such as Wii can help with chronic pain, especially for kids, in several ways.
Kids notice their pain less when focused on a game. Distraction has been used clinically when kids with burn injuries play video games while the painful process of bandage changes is done.
2. Physical conditioning.
Kids may like to play games more than doing standard physical therapy exercises. Fun is better than “work.” Because the components of Wii are lightweight, it’s easier to use them than something heavier like a regular bowling bowl or tennis racket.
3. Stress Relief
Game such as Wii can relieve stress and anxiety, because relaxation and having fun replace experiencing pain.
However, I think there are 2 other really interesting ways Wii can help those with chronic pain.
1. Playing Wii can help you move normally.
The newest theory about chronic pain is that your brain gets stuck in a pain cycle, and normal sensations fail to get through to your brain. So pain goes on and on, even after your original physical problem goes away. In a sense, your brain gets used to having pain -the hamster can’t get off the pain wheel.
And when you have pain, you move the part that’s painful less and less. This means that fewer and fewer normal sensations register in your brain, resulting in even more pain. A vicious cycle can develop: Pain … less movement … more pain … less movement ….
2. Watching yourself moving normally can relieve pain.
If you actually watch your limbs and body move normally while playing Wii, your visual system can see that “everything’s ok.” This visual input can over-ride pain signals. What gets to your brain through your eyes may be more important than information coming through other senses. So if your body looks normal, your brain may cancel out pain signals, because it gives preference to information from your visual system.
Interesting ideas! Maybe one of you will be the next spokesperson for Wii!
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