Since the next generation of video games stormed the market in 2006, Nintendo’s Wii games have transformed the living rooms of countless Americans. Requiring gamers to engage their body’s muscles for physical activity, Wii’s unique design creates a virtual playground in front of a television. Bringing computerized gaming to new heights, Wii fuses competitive athleticism into fun and addictive games. Unfortunately, such a combination is an ideal recipe for causing repetitive motion injuries.
Repetitive motion injuries are some of the most common, painful, soft tissue problems in the United States, making up over 50 percent of all athletic-related injuries seen by physicians. Unfortunately, repetitive motion injuries can be disabling for an extended period of time if appropriate and timely treatment is not sought. As one of the healthcare professionals most likely to assist with soft tissue injuries, massage therapists have the knowledge and tools to be instrumental in healing repetitive motion injuries.
The motion-sensitive technology activated by moving Wii’s controllers simulates actions like wielding a sword, swinging a tennis racket or punching a boxing opponent. Long hours spent waving Wii’s controllers around quickly add up to intense physical exertion. Thus, playing Wii commonly results in the kinds of aches and pains common with more familiar forms of exercise. More specifically, excessive Wii play has been known to result in carpal tunnel syndrome, back and knee pain, shoulder and elbow strains.
Although similar to playing sports, four of Wii’s characteristics that might render someone more likely to injure themselves include:
- Time Restrictions – Real sports have time restrictions such as a boxing match consisting of a specified number of timed rounds. However, virtual gaming eliminates these restrictions by allowing someone to play until they drop.
- Narrow Physical Exertion – Real sports involve many aspects of physicality but virtual gaming calls upon a specific set of actions. When you play a real tennis match, half of the time is devoted to hitting balls while the rest is devoted to chasing those balls. When playing tennis on Wii, you only perform the ball hitting motion which increases your chances of sustaining a repetitive motion injury.
- Warm-up – Before engaging in a demanding sporting event, athletes are careful to warm up their muscles and joints first. However, many people who play Wii don’t realize the game’s demand on the body and skip a highly advisable warm-up.
- Accessibility – Having Wii inside your home where you can play it whenever and with whomever you want (including playing solo) makes it a terrifically accessible game. Real sports games typically require opponents, are often dependant on the weather and can require travel, reservations, other team members or specialized equipment.
The most common types of repetitive motion injuries are tendonitis – inflammation of a tendon and bursitis – inflammation of a bursa sac. Regardless of which type of soft tissue is involved, repetitive motion disorders involve microscopic tears. When the body is unable to repair the tears in the tissue as fast as they are being made, inflammation occurs, leading to a painful sensation. In addition, injured tendons or bursa are frequently guilty of irritating a nearby nerve.
Massage therapy is useful for repetitive motion injuries because it can relax the muscles along the route of the inflamed tendon or bursa. According to a study by the Touch Research Institute at the University Of Miami School Of Medicine, researchers found that massage was able to bring a significant reduction in pain and other symptoms of the most common repetitive motion injury, carpal tunnel syndrome. Especially when a bodyworker knows how to test for various types of nerve entrapments and can devise an effective treatment plan to release nearby muscle tension and free the nerve, massage therapy can dramatically improve repetitive motion injury pain.
Confirmed by retailers across the country, the number of people getting active with Wii is expanding daily. While this trend is popularizing fitness, it is also causing more repetitive motion injuries. Thankfully, skilled massage therapists can bring their clients relief from the numbness, pain and tingling associated with the soft tissue injuries typically sustained by exuberant Wii players.