Yoga has been confirmed by research time and again to be an effective form of exercise for back pain management. Yoga involves poses that strengthen muscles throughout the body, including the all-important core muscle group; the poses also give your body a good stretch. For people with nonspecific back pain, meaning that no spinal damage is indicated, the soft tissues are likely culprits. Stretching and strengthening are key components of treatment.
Wii yoga may be able to help back pain patients resolve or reduce their pain from the comfort of their own home. Recently, South Korean researchers conducted a small study of 30 women with chronic back pain who were randomly divided into a control exercise group or a Wii yoga group. The control group performed 30 minutes of trunk stabilization exercises designed to strengthen the core three days a week, along with 30 minutes of normal physical therapy. The experimental group performed 30 minutes of Wii yoga three days a week. The study was conducted over a four-week period.
Researchers evaluated a number of outcome measures, including pain, disability and fear avoidance belief scores. They found marked improvements in the Wii yoga group, and lesser improvements in the control group. Pain scores dropped from 7 to 2.27 on average in the yoga group compared to a decrease from 6.95 to 4.63 in the control group; disability scores went from 34.91 to 13.82 in the yoga group and 36.18 to 24.55 in the control group; fear avoidance scores decreased from 65.46 to 17.55 in the yoga group and 70.82 to 41.64 in the control group.
See more on this study at www.jstage.jst.go.jp.
It should be noted that the very small sample size used in this study, along with the impossibility of blinding (which means the possibility of patient/researcher bias), give cause to take its findings cautiously. That said, if you don’t have a spinal condition and practice with caution, yoga pursued from home is likely a safe method of pain management. The Wii Fit comes with a balance board that can help you monitor your posture and the distribution of your weight. While not the most precise technology, it will at the very least remind you to practice proper form.
It should be noted that home exercise using the Wii Fit may not actually be cheaper than physical therapy or attending a yoga class. A Wii console costs around $300, and the Wii Fit package is around $100. Unless you already have a Wii, then, it’s not likely to be cost-saving unless you keep up with exercise in the long-term, which isn’t a bad idea in itself.
As screens become an ever-increasing part of our lives, it’s good to know that there are ways to use them that can promote healthier, more pain-free living. If you have a Wii and you’re given the okay to perform yoga by a health professional, consider the game an option for helping manage back pain.