Rehabilitation and Video Games

For this research blog post I was really interested in learning more about video games and how they are used in rehabilitation settings. This topic is very personal and hits home for me since I have had to use video games in a rehabilitation center because I had an infection on part of my brain stem. During this post I will talk about the benefits patients may gain from using games. I will talk about how important Kinect has been in this industry and how it has effected those with Parkinson’s, heart failure and Cerebral Palsy. And to close out this research I will talk about my own experiences and how video games can help with my pain disorder sometimes called Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS) or Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).

There are some many reasons why people think video games are bad for you and how violence in games can effect children and young adults but there is a whole other side to video games that are helping people out in amazing ways. In a video from the University of South California Rachel Proffitt the director of the game rehabilitation lab says “it provides the patients with something that is motivating, that’s fun, it’s a reason to want to do their therapy”.  Video games were only used for entertainment purposes up until 2008 when the Wii and Kinect were starting to make a break into the video game world.

What makes video games so effective in physical therapy uses is because of simple rules, repetitive motions and it makes the exercises more enjoyable to the patients that are using them. “This means that by capitalizing on these repetitive motions and either choosing or designing a game for a patient that encourages the motions that patients needs to go through to recover, a physical therapy session can quickly become something fun to do rather than a procedure to endure”. ( By making the whole experience fun and enjoyable the patient doesn’t think of it as a PT exercise, they think of it as a game. According to the article from, the use of video games in PT is on the rise and will continue to see more and more benefits for all cases, but one example is it will help stroke patients recover quickly by playing sport games.

During this research I discovered how important Kinect from Xbox is when using video games for PT. In many cases with Parkinson’s Disease, heart failure and Cerebral Palsy, Kinect was the video game system that was always used and what showed the most improvements when conducting studies and exercises. In all cases Kinect was used to push and test the patients into getting them to do everyday activities again. “Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360 virtual reality (VR) video games are promising rehabilitation options because they involve motivating, full-body movement practice” (Levac, 426). There is a down side to using an everyday, recreational video game system. In the article Kinect-ing” With Clinicians: A Knowledge Translation Resource to Support Decision Making About Video Game Use in Rehabilitation, the authorstalk about how they will bring together clinicians who will study games that could be used in these situations and figure out what is the best games for certain cases. Not all games can be used for the same physical therapy practices. The same game may work for both Cerebral Palsy and Parkinson’s because they need to learn how to reuse certain muscles but those games might not work for heart failure patients.

The video below shows the use of Kinect for Elderly exercise and stroke patients. You can see in the video how it helps them regain normal every movement like walking, moving their like they are cooking and cleaning. It improves both their small motor skills and bigger motor skills because they are challenged to use their hands and arms like that are chopping of meat or mixing ingredients in a pot.

I also came across stories on how professionals are creating video games for rehabilitation reasons. Brenda Lange and her team have created a video game called Jewel Mine. The game is set up to created customized rehab services to veterans, older adults, and children. It helps them move their bodies to reach for certain objects. The game is design to look like a popular 80’s game called Simon, but instead of a normal controller the patient must move around. Just like in other articles I read Lange states “In order to improve motor function patients need to perform the same motions over and over…These exercises are repetitive by design, and that can get boring. Putting them in a game has the potential to keep users motivated”. Jewel Mine can be used in many cases. It helps with balancing, upper limb movement and memory. When creating their own games they are able to input different functions that wouldn’t be seen in normal games. Now usually the gamer is in control of what to do next but because in some PT game there are set exercises the doctor or trainer can decide what to do next and if the patient can move on.
In the video below, it is a demo of a game called NeuMimic which was created by the U.S. Air Force Academy. In this game the person controlling the game is going to be a doctor. This game also records every time it is being used, this way doctors and professionals can go back and look at what the patient did, how well they did and if they can move on or if they have to repeat that same level.

Now to change course to a disorder that not many people know about but something that is very close to home for myself. I suffer from Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS) which is a progressive disease of the autonomic nervous system. To keep this explanation short, it is a chronic pain that does not come from any injury. The pain can be very severe and causes suffered like myself to live with very intense pain every day. It makes doing the simplest things hard like getting dressed, walking, and showering. This may sound crazy because the pain does not come from any injury or source so many people even doctors think it is all in the patients head. It is not it comes from the nerves, which are miss firing and sending signals from the brain to the areas that effect people and telling them they are in pain.

Now you may be wondering how video games can help with this, but like I said earlier it hurts to do normal activities like move, so playing Just Dance or Kinect help the patients get up and move around. If suffers sit and decide the let pain take over they could risk losing mobility. Dr. Sherry from the Childern’s Hospital of Pennsylvania told me to use video games to distract myself from the pain, to de-stress and to keep moving. “Try distracting yourself from pain by doing things you like such as: watching television, reading a book, playing video games…Even if you are in pain, it helps to keep your mind off of it by doing things you enjoy. I know it’s hard sometimes but if you push yourself then you may see it helps” (

To close out my post I think I can say I appreciate video games a lot more than I could before because I understand just how much they can help someone with physical pain. They definitely helped me when I was first faced with the horrible pain that AMPS can bring on.

Work Cited

A. (2014, January 7). How Video Games Are Becoming Useful Physical Therapy Tools. Retrieved October 30, 2016, from

Foulds, R., Adamovich, S., Gordon, A., & Okita, S. (n.d.). Augmenting pediatric constraint-induced movement therapy and bimanual training with video gaming technology. Technology and Disability,22(2010), 179-191.

Jaarsma, T., Klompstra, L., Gal, T. B., Boyne, J., Vellone, E., Bäck, M., . . . Strömberg, A. (2015). Increasing exercise capacity and quality of life of patients with heart failure through Wii gaming: The rationale, design and methodology of the HF-Wii study; a multicentre randomized controlled trial. European Journal of Heart Failure, 17(7), 743-748. doi:10.1002/ejhf.305

Levac, D., Espy, D., Fox, E., Pradhan, S., & Deutsch, J. E. (2014). “Kinect-ing” With Clinicians: A Knowledge Translation Resource to Support Decision Making About Video Game Use in Rehabilitation. Physical Therapy, 95(3), 426-440. doi:10.2522/ptj.20130618

News. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2016, from

Palacios-Navarro, G., García-Magariño, I., & Ramos-Lorente, P. (2015). A Kinect-Based System for Lower Limb Rehabilitation in Parkinson’s Disease Patients: A Pilot Study. J Med Syst Journal of Medical Systems,39(9). doi:10.1007/s10916-015-0289-0

RSD/CRPS…. A Guide for Chronic Pain Sufferers. (2015). Retrieved October 30, 2016, from

Helpful Tips for Living with RSD/CRPS. (2009). Retrieved October 30, 2016, from


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