Healthwise: Wii Therapy

By: Cheryn Stone Email
By: Cheryn Stone Email

December 2, 2009

The Nintendo Wii is still atop many Christmas lists. The game system is popular with kids but also useful for adults. In this week's Martha Jefferson Healthwise Cheryn Stone found out how the Wii is helping patients overcome obstacles in the recovery process.

The Wii is a new reality for Nellie Houchens, who says she mostly likes to read. The gaming world younger generations have grown up with is the same world Houchens is setting foot into.

"I like the downhill skiing and the tiltboard games we work on," said Houchens.

The Wii console is a new addition to Martha Jefferson. After hip replacement, Houchens, with help from her therapist, works on the Wii Fit at Martha Jefferson Hospital.

"Like a lot of people that have joint replacements, she was having trouble fully weight shifting on to that leg where she had the hip replacement, so it was affecting her walking pattern," said Susan Heald, a physical therapist.

The Wii helps correct a limp by guiding the user to put their best foot forward. The tilt table or tiltboard is used to improve balance by giving the user a visual of where their weight is shifted. Most importantly, patients seem to enjoy using the console.

"I haven't really gotten any resistance. When I bring it up people are usually excited to try something different. I haven't found anybody who doesn't want to do it, and they usually want to do it again," said Heald.

The Wii Fit is used as an additional therapy tool at Martha Jefferson to help treat many orthopedic problems, including foot and ankle injuries or balance and posture.

Heald says the hospital Wii still spends too much time in the box and not enough in use. She encourages her colleagues to embrace the Wii and use it in their therapy.

"I was a little hesitant to use it with some of my older patients because I wasn't sure how well they would do. I've found they pick it up very quickly and actually enjoy it," said Heald.

Houchens has progressed well and her therapist says the Wii has plenty to do with that success.

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