Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wii for Fun vs. Wii for Therapy - Lessons I Learned

Advance for Occupational Therapists published the “Play it Safe” reproducible hand out in this week’s issue. Welcome to the Advance readers who found this blog through that publication.

Personal experience taught me a few more lessons about "playing it safe" with the Wii. While working out with Wii Fit, I enthusiastically participated in the hula hoop game. To play this game and score the big points, one must twist and shift their hips side to side, while extending their torso to either the left or the right and reaching their arms overhead to catch the flying hoops. The next morning, my low back was stiff and painful. I would have gladly put a sock aide, reacher and/or dressing sick to the test, had one been handy.

Happy 50th Birthday Hula Hoop!
Photo by tonythemisfit on Flickr

To relieve the tightness and pain in my back, I designed a plan of care for myself that included moving, stretching and icing. As we know, moving a bit to warm up is important before stretching, as is icing a bit to cool down after the workout. I found hamstring stretches to be very helpful.

Through this experience, the difference between Wii for fun and Wii for therapy became very clear. When using Wii for therapy, the game must be a part of a plan of care with a goal. The goal may be increased range of motion, increased strength of a weakened extremity, or improved eye-hand co-ordination (to mention a few).

Before using the Wii to work toward one of these goals, the therapist needs to lead the participant through some warm up movements. Following the use of the Wii, the therapist needs to lead the participant through some stretches.

Including upper body stretches in the plan of care not only helps the participant avoid stiffness but also helps increase the therapeutic movement of the targeted area. Furthermore, sandwiching the Wii gaming activity (therapeutic activity) into a therapy session which begins with functional mobility and functional transfer training (warm up) and ends with stretches for a specific area (therapeutic exercise) helps delineate Wii for therapy from simply Wii for fun.

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