Newsletter February 2008

Virtual Injuries 

The Wii was one of the most popular Christmas Presents this year, which is an excellent change for video game players and television watchers as it gets people active and burning calories, but many users are describing new pains that have come with their new present. In a nation where obesity reigns among the top health issues, activity is a crucial part of the solution; and as with any sport or new activity it is important to gradually increase the activity intensity to train the body and avoid injuries. 

Heather Goodell, Physical Therapist and public relations chair with the Oregon Physical Therapy Association notes, “I’ve been seeing injuries from playing the Wii this winter.” Among the most common are overuse injuries and tendonitis. Overuse injuries occur when someone performs an activity repetitively and when the body is not strong enough, trained enough, or in a healthy enough alignment to handle that use. The most common injuries that Goodell has heard people complain of are shoulder soreness known as tendonitis particularly with playing the golf and tennis games, outer hip pain known as bursitis or tendonitis with the bowling game, and elbow, thumb, and forearm soreness and tendonitis with other games involving use and dexterity of the hand. 

Judy, one of Heather’s patients thought, “its only a game, its not like I’m really playing a sport”. This attitude, which takes the fear out of being active, motivates people to start moving again and is critical to our nation’s recovery from the obesity epidemic. 

Unfortunately, many people are making the transition from being very sedentary to suddenly performing motions associated with a sport with no steps in between. So then how do people get more active without getting injured? One simple solution: pace yourself by starting with shorter bouts of play and gradually working up your activity level. Other solutions involve starting with the pieces needed to perform the ultimate goal of “swinging the virtual golf club,” or “throwing the virtual bowling ball.” First limber your body by stretching and strengthen by performing smaller versions of the golf swing or the bowling lunge. Gradually build up by allowing adequate recovery between sessions (usually one day off between workouts is safe). If you are still struggling and have pain during your play, then a trip to your physical therapist is definitely warranted. 

Many people don’t realize that their insurance will likely pay for a visit to their physical therapist to discuss their soreness or potential overuse injury and ways to resolve it. Many insurance companies still require a doctor to make the recommendation for physical therapy, but more and more insurances are realizing it is much more cost effective to allow direct access to the physical therapist without a visit to the doctor first. To see if your insurance allows you to directly access your therapist give them a call or call your physical therapist who often times is willing to check for you.
What advice does Goodell give to people who want to get more active but are afraid of starting and getting injured? Have a fitness screening done by your physical therapist prior to beginning a new activity. Your physical therapist can measure your strength, flexibility and take in to account your overall health, joint health, posture and body’s alignment and make recommendations that are tailored to your needs. Your physical therapist can teach you specific exercises to warm up and build the strength and flexibility needed to safely participate in your desired activity, and teach you how to avoid potentially damaging positions, and correct your alignment while performing your desired activity. With these tools in hand, you can safely start having fun with your Wii or whatever game you choose to play! 

Physical Therapists are health care professionals who diagnose and manage individuals of all ages, from newborns to elders, who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. Physical therapists examine each individual and develop a plan of care using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. Physical therapists also work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility by developing fitness and wellness oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles. 

The Oregon Physical Therapy Association is a state wide chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association which represents nearly 70,000 physical therapists, physical therapy assistants, and students nationwide. Its goal is to foster advancements in physical therapist education, practice, and research. Consumers can access “Find a PT” to find a physical therapist in their area, as well as physical therapy news and information at

Happy Valentine’s Day!!