When exercise is fun, you may not even realize you’re getting fit. For example, some people loathe the gym — the sweaty locker room, the group fitness mentality or even being self-conscious all keep them at home. But ask these same people to join a summer sports league or take a hike in the woods, and suddenly exercise is no big deal.

The same can be said of physical therapy and video games. Your patients may drag their feet as they walk through the door of your clinic, dreading the work ahead of them. But what if you could make rehab more engaging — and fun — through the use of a video game? Surprisingly, it’s not just the younger generation who is benefiting from video game exercises. The NCBI published a study in 2009 that determined that use of the Nintendo Bowling Simulation could decrease fall risk in elderly Nursing Home residents.

Nintendo® Wii game system

Coined “Wii-hab,” the Wii game system can be used in therapy with patients to treat injuries related to stroke, broken bones, surgery or combat injuries, and more. The Wii system includes a wireless controller with motion sensors that operate similarly to other video game controllers, except they allow for much more freedom of movement. Gamers must actually complete motions to play games, rather than punch buttons on a controller — and as a result, games that involve dancing, sports and exercise have been developed. You can use the Wii game system in your clinic and choose games that require motions that can be aligned with your PT treatment plan. Or, you can devise a treatment plan for patients to do at home, using their own Wii system. For patients that find therapy boring or stressful, the concept of playing as a form of therapy can be much more encouraging.

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Computer Assisted Rehabilitation ENvironment (CAREN)

A little more advanced and intense than a video game, the CAREN system is making waves at facilities such as the Cleveland Clinic and Brooke Army Medical Center. CAREN allows patients to receive their therapy in a controlled virtual environment that provides visual, auditory and tactile sensory interaction. It consists of games that help patients improve their balance, stability, coordination and mobility. To use CAREN, a patient stands on top of a motion- and force-sensing platform surrounded by a video screen, and wears markers that can be tracked by infrared cameras behind the screen. Patients must also wear a safety harness to prevent falls. Then, a game plays on the screen that challenges the patient to complete certain movements, while their movements are monitored by the therapist operating the game. It’s an advanced and engaging way to help patients complete their therapy and regain confidence in their movements.

The Power of Technology

Video games aren’t just for play anymore! When used strategically, video games and virtual reality can be a valuable addition to your therapy practice.

Interested in other Physical Therapy Trends or locating a great PT, PTA, OT, COTA, or SLP job?

Check out PT Solutions. We’re a staffing agency run by therapists for therapists, and we specialize in the placement of PTs, OTs and Speech Language Pathologists in premier rehabilitation facilities across the country. To learn more, contact us today!


Using Video Games to Accomplish Physical Therapy Goals was last modified: by



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