“It has been an entertaining way to do rehab, that’s for sure,” said Rose. “But it’s also been helpful. I’ve noticed a big difference since I’ve been using the Wii. It’s worked really well for me.”
Nintendo’s Wii, the computer gaming system that offers a virtual reality experience with a wave of its magic wand, is currently working some magic of its own in rehabilitation centers throughout the country.
Wii-hab, sometimes called Wii-therapy, has become an increasingly popular tool among physical therapists, who employ the user-friendly entertainment technology as a successful tool for clinic and home rehabilitation, as well as a powerful motivational tool.
“So far, we have seen very positive results with this,” said Robert Walters, physical therapy supervisor at the John Muir Outpatient Center in Brentwood. “We’ve been doing this for a few months, and patients are very excited about it. The benefits for the patients are of course physical, but they’re also motivational. It makes rehab a little more fun and a little less boring, which makes people more interested in doing it.”
While the benefits of the Wii are obvious for patients such as Rose, the Wii has also been shown to benefit patients recovering from strokes or neurological disorders by helping them regain their balance and motor skills.
And one way this is accomplished is with the Wii Fit, a new addition to the Wii family. The Wii-fit balance board is a plastic motion detector that translates a person’s real-time movements onto the screen, whether it’s yoga, aerobics, muscle stretches or Pilates. The pressure-sensitive board allows participants to affect the game’s outcome by changing their balance, position and step. Users get to see where their lines of gravity and balance are centered.
And for the older generation in particular, said Walters, the Wii helps build a sense of self-esteem and confidence. “There are many seniors who at one time may have enjoyed, say, tennis or bowling,” he said. “This is an opportunity to still enjoy those sports on a lighter scale and with a little more privacy.”
In light of Wii’s success as a physical therapy tool, can insurance coverage for at-home Wii therapy be far behind?
“Good question,” said Walters. “I haven’t heard of anyone asking for that yet, but it might eventually. It would be nice.”