Video Games May Help Chronic Back Pain

Man playing video game - moving to relieve chronic back pain


You may be surprised to know that The University of Sydney has published a study which shows that video games may have a positive effect on relieving CHRONIC BACK PAIN



Chronic back pain has become one of the most debilitating and costly health issues in our modern times.  Often effecting older adults, this can lead to loss of mobility, weight increase and associated health issues such as diabetes and heart disease.

With the ageing population expected to triple in the next decade a way to reduce the skyrocketing costs of managing lower back pain is crucial.


The research was specifically targeted to self-managed, home-based video game exercises.  The Nintendo Wi was used in the study however no funding was received from the manufacturer.

60 participants with chronic back pain were asked to play the video game-guided exercises for a minimum of 1 hour per session for three sessions per week for 8 weeks.  All sessions were unsupervised, carried out in the participant’s own home and relied purely on the instructions on the gaming machine.

The comparison group, with similar chronic lower back pain issues, was a similar size and age and they were required to carry out the same exercises however guidance was provided by a qualified Physiotherapist.


Although both groups had similar results of 27% reduction in pain and 23% increase in function, what was unexpected is that the unsupervised group had an extremely high compliance with participants completing over 85% of the recommended sessions.

The very high participation in the unsupervised group seems to be attributed to:

Travel convenience of not having to travel, especially for those living in remote areas

Timeability to complete the exercises at a time that is suitable to fit the participant’s daily routine

Cost the difference in cost of the machine outright compared to ongoing Physiotherapy costs

Comfortbeing able to wear clothes that you may not usually wear out

Rewardthe gaming machine gives reward scores making it somewhat competitive to achieve a better result next time

Motivationthe gaming machine also gives feedback and encouragement directly in line with the effort and achievement without any human consideration for participant’s individual circumstances

This type of exercise may therefore have enormous potential to assist a large, and possibly remote, section of the community suffering from chronic back pain.