Video game technology may benefit people with back pain

Aug 26 2011
New research from the University College London, Imperial College and Leicester University suggests that video game technology may help people with back pain, according to The Guardian.

The project, conducted jointly at the three universities, is looking into whether a responsive computer-based system can help relieve back pain, the news source reports.

The researchers are testing the effect that video game products, such as Xbox Kinect, may have on back pain. Xbox Kinect uses motion sensor technology to let users play the game without a controller. This technology may benefit more than just video gamers, though, according to the media outlet. Dr. Amanda Williams, one of the researchers working on the project, stated her belief that motion sensor technology can help patients target the source of pain and come up with effective ways to deal with it, such as finding muscle strengthening exercises or discovering pain management techniques.

“Back pain sufferers are also able to key in specific information, which the computer system can process and use to provide long and short term goals,” Williams told The Guardian.

Back pain is one of the most common physical ailments in the U.S., affecting 8 out of 10 people at some point during their lives, according to the National Institutes of Health. Most patients have limited options, if common treatments such as pain relievers or physical therapy fail to bring significant and lasting relief. Surgical intervention is an option in some cases, although doctors generally consider this method only if all conservative treatments are ineffective. That is because spinal surgery carries substantial risks of complications such as infections, scarring and blood loss.

The current research project aims to help people experiencing chronic back pain find effective techniques for managing pain on their own, according to The Guardian. Williams said of the system, “We really want patients to see it as an advisor or a coach. We hope they find this process more satisfying than regular visits to a doctor,” quoted by the news source.

The four-year project began in May 2010 and is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.