University of Sydney researchers have found that home-based video game exercises can reduce the amount of chronic low back pain (LBP) in older people by 27%, which is about the same amount as if the patient went to the doctor or a physical therapist to conduct these exercises.
The study investigated how effective, self-managed, home-based video game exercises could be with people over 55 who have LBP and access to a Nintendo Wii-Fit-U.
"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, a physiotherapist and postdoctoral research fellow from the University of Sydney School of Public Health, "Participants practiced flexibility, strengthening and aerobic exercises for 60 minutes, three times per week at home without therapist supervision, and the effect of the 8-week video-game program was comparable to exercise programs completed under the supervision of a physiotherapist.
"Structured exercise programs are recommended for the management of chronic LBP, but there is poor compliance to unsupervised home-exercises. Our study, however, had high compliance to video-game exercises, with participants completing on average 85 percent of recommended sessions.” He continued, “Video-game exercises are interactive, have video and audio instructions, provide feedback on a patient's technique and scores them based on 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.
"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. This home-based program has great potential as supervised physiotherapy visits can be costly and people who live in remote or rural areas can face barriers accessing these services,” he concluded.
The study focused on the need for low cost and accessible treatments to older patients who are affected by LBP.
"Given the enormous global cost of chronic low back pain, increasing an individual's capacity to self-manage their pain, while reducing the need for therapist supervision, should be a priority," said Associate Professor Paulo Ferreira, from the University's Faculty of Health Science. "Home-based video-game exercises could be a solution to this problem as they reduce reliance on a healthcare system with scarce resources. Units are low cost at around $200 and patients wouldn't need to travel to treatment clinics.”
"This study highlights the potential cost-effectiveness of this new approach to the management of low back pain, particularly since it can be implemented on a large-scale and to people in remote communities with limited access to treatment providers," Dr. Zadro added. "This study shows a promising new direction in the treatment of older people suffering from low back pain, which is particularly important given the majority of treatment options for low back pain have not been tested in older people.”
The paper on this study was published in Physical Therapy.