"Wii-hab" used in Physical Therapy

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - You can call it "Wii-hab" or Wii-therapy.  The Nintendo Wii has become a popular tool in physical therapy for people recovering from strokes, surgeries and nerve-damaging conditions. In this Healthcast, we show you how one Lake Charles clinic is using this gaming system to get patients back in the swing of things.

When Chelsey Fuselier suffered a severe spinal cord injury two years ago, she was told she would never walk again.  "I was paralyzed from the neck down and I wasn't able to move anything from the waist down," says Chelsey.

After three months, Chelsey miraculously regained some movement in her body.  "I always had hope," she says, "regardless of what the doctors told me, I knew I was going to walk again."

With several months of physical therapy under her belt, Chelsey was ready for a change in routine that would keep her body getting stronger and the staff at Action Potential Physical Therapy brought in an unexpected new tool: the Nintendo Wii.  Physical Therapist Stephanie Marceaux says, "It's a fun way of doing some of the therapeutic exercises that we have them do and it's just different, so they're not getting as bored and it's a little bit more creative on that end."

Marceaux says the results have been phenomenal for a wide range of patients. Alton "Sonny" Soileau started undergoing physical therapy after a major hip surgery that left him unable to walk. His mix of walking exercises, floor exercises and "Wii-hab" has changed his way of living.  "Now I can climb stairs and I can walk around," says Sonny, "it's helped me a lot."

Marceaux says she sees patients do the Wii exercises for a longer period of time than traditional therapy because it keeps their mind focused on an activity, versus pain and repetitive movements. It's something that Julie Landry, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis five years ago now looks forward to.  "It's a change in pace, it's different," she says, "it breaks up the monotony of coming in and just doing exercises."

From skiing, to tennis, and Sonny's least favorite game - the roller ball - patients are getting stronger with each sway.

*On a "Wii" side note, both Sonny and Julie have Nintendo Wii systems in their homes now, so that they can do some of the therapy exercises themselves. But, they said between kids and grandkids it can be a tough battle deciding whose turn it is!