Interactive Media Systems, TU Wien

A Serious Exergame for Patients Suffering from Chronic Musculoskeletal Back and Neck Pain: A Pilot Study

By Stephanie Jansen-Kosterink, Rianne M.H.A Huis in ´t Veld, Christian Schönauer, Hannes Kaufmann, Hermie J. Hermens, and Miriam Vollenbroek-Hutten


Introduction: Over recent years, the popularity of videogames has gone beyond youth and gamers and is slowly entering the field of professional healthcare. Exergames are an attractive alternative to physical therapy. The primary aim of this pilot study was to explore the user experience (usability, satisfaction, level of motivation, and game experience) of the patient with the "PlayMancer" exergame. The secondary aim was to explore the progression of the performed motor skills (walking velocity, overhead reach ability, and cervical range of motion) and the clinical changes (to physical condition, disability, and pain intensity) in a group of patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain using an exergame for 4 weeks.

Materials and Methods: In the European PlayMancer project, an exergame for physical rehabilitation of chronic pain patients was developed. This exergame is controlled by relevant motions of the patient's body captured by a motion suit and several infrared cameras. In three different integrated minigames, the patient can train the following motor skills: Walking velocity, overhead reaching, and neck mobility.

Results: Ten patients participated in this study and completed the 4 weeks of gaming. Patients rated the usability of the exergames as good (score of 78.5 [standard deviation 9.7; range, 60.0-97.5]) on the System Usability Scale, and the game motivated all patients to perform their exercises. Patients enjoyed playing and were pleased with both the game environment and the game play. Overall, the patients made a progression in the examined motor skills during the minigames over the 4 weeks of gaming.

Conclusions: The "PlayMancer" exergame is a potential tool for achieving physical rehabilitation because it motivates patients to perform their exercises and as a result increases their motor skills and physical condition.


S. Jansen-Kosterink, R. Huis in ´t Veld, C. Schönauer, H. Kaufmann, H. Hermens, M. Vollenbroek-Hutten: "A Serious Exergame for Patients Suffering from Chronic Musculoskeletal Back and Neck Pain: A Pilot Study"; Games for Health, 2 (2013), 5; 299 - 307.


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