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Physiotherapy and Virtual Reality

For most of us, the Nintendo Wii games console is a fun way to hang out and play with a cool toy or burn some extra calories at home. But now, the Nintendo Wii and Wii Fit is being extended into the rehabilitation arena. Bloggers and physiotherapists alike are increasingly touting the benefits of using these products at home rather than dragging oneself to the Physio clinic.

And while the idea of using a video game to entice people, particularly kids, into completing physiotherapy sessions that may be painful, arduous or exhausting, is a very exciting prospect indeed, is it really a good idea to use these games in lieu of a licensed and trained physiotherapist? We weigh out the pros and cons below. 

Pro – It’s Geographically Convenient: Playing these video games in the comfort of your own home means that when it comes time to get started, all you need to do is to change into some workout gear, stroll into the next room and turn on the TV.

Con – It Could Be Dangerous: Without the careful supervision of a trained and licensed physiotherapist, you could be doing more harm than good and stressing muscles, ligaments and bones that are not ready for the range of motion required by the video game.

Pro – It’s Fun and Doesn’t Feel like Work: A great physiotherapist can also make a session feel like a lot of fun, but let’s face it – Wii is a video game, and kids of all ages love video games! The time will truly fly by.

Con – You Might Not Be Pushing Yourself Too Hard – Or Not Hard Enough: While Wii Fit is a fun game to play, you might get carried away and end up hurting yourself or conversely, you might find yourself taking it a bit too easy. Without the trained eye of a professional watching and assisting you, it is impossible to know.

Pro – It’s Affordable: If you are paying for your Physio out of your own pocket, you may be enticed by the one-time cost of a Wii console and Wii Fit game. A one-time investment can be utilised countless times.

Con – You Might Be Performing the Movements Incorrectly: Sure, the bouncing avatar on the screen is racking up points and smashing the competition, but is your own body aligned correctly? It can be difficult to tell when you are playing on a video game system.

Pro – Your Kids Will Beg to Play: Like adding carrot puree to a tray of brownies, this is something good for them in disguise.

Con – More Screen Time for Young Minds: Many parents are conscious about the amount of time that they allow their children to spend in front of screens (such as iPads, smartphones, laptops and television). Conducting Physio in front of the TV? Maybe not the best idea if you are trying to limit the hold that devices have over your kids.

Whether you choose to use a Wii for Physio or prefer the care and attention of a bespoke programme designed by a trained physiotherapist, it pays to carefully consult these pros and cons and add your own to this list.