A home-based intervention involving video game exercises significantly decreased pain by 27% and increased function by 23% among older patients with chronic low back pain, according to a study published in Physical Therapy.
“Structured exercise programs are recommended for the management of chronic low back pain, but there is poor compliance to unsupervised home-exercises,” Joshua R. Zadro, PhD, from the department of physiotherapy at the University of Sydney, said in a press release.
Zadro and colleagues hypothesized that home-based video game exercises may improve self-management of chronic low back pain among older adults. To test their hypothesis, the researchers organized a randomized controlled trial including 60 patients aged 55 years or older (mean age, 67.8 years) with chronic low back pain.
The participants were randomly assigned to complete Wii Fit U exercises or to continue their usual home exercises for 8 weeks. Participants in the intervention group were advised to participate in flexibility, strengthening and aerobic exercises in their home via Wii Fit U for 1 hour three times per week. They also received calls from their physical therapist every 2 weeks.
A home-based intervention involving video game exercises significantly decreased pain by 27% and increased function by 23% among older patients with chronic low back pain.
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The researchers measured participants’ pain self-efficacy and care seeking behaviors, as well as physical activity, pain, function, disability, fear of movement/reinjury, falls-efficacy, recruitment and response rates, adherence, experience with the intervention and adverse events.
Overall, participants significantly adhered to the Wii Fit U exercises, completing about 85% of recommended sessions. At 6 months, pain self-efficacy was significantly higher among participants in the intervention group compared with the control group, but not immediately after the intervention or at 3 months. Care-seeking behaviors did not differ between groups.
Participants completing the Wii Fit U exercises had significantly greater improvements in pain (27% reduction) and function (23% increase) at 8 weeks and a greater likelihood to engage in flexibility exercises at 6 months than those in the control group.
All other outcomes did not significantly differ between the groups. Participants did not report any adverse events.
The researchers noted that the effect of the video-game program was similar to exercise programs completed under the supervision of a physiotherapist.
“Our study found that home-based video game exercises are a valuable treatment option for older people suffering from chronic low back pain,” Zadro said in the press release.
“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,” he added. “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.”
Zadro noted that supervised physiotherapy visits can be costly and accessing these services can be difficult for older patients with poor physical functioning and those who live in remote or rural areas, but at-home video game exercises are more accessible and may be more cost-effective.
“These exercise programs could be a unique solution to increase older people’s motivation to self-manage their chronic low back pain through home-exercise and improve their ability to continue with their daily activities despite having pain.” – by Alaina Tedesco
The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.