Dance Dance Revolution Helps Multiple Sclerosis Patients Regain Their Balance

DDR
Dance Dance Revolution may help people ease their multiple sclerosis symptoms. ElPadawan, CC BY-SA 2.0

Anyone who has played the video game Dance Dance Revolution will know just how physically intense moving your feet to the beat of the music can get. Putting that intensity to good use, researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have been looking at how the game can help people with multiple sclerosis overcome certain symptoms of the disease.

“Individuals with multiple sclerosis have a lot of balance issues and vertigo problems,” Ruchika Prakash, an assistant professor of psychology at the university, told Fox News. “There’s numbness in the extremities … and then there’s spasticity, or stiffness of the muscles, as a result of which the movement of joints becomes challenging, becomes restricted.” 

Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects the brain and spinal cords, damaging myelin sheaths, a protective layer surrounding nerve endings that aids in signal conduction. This damage causes signal disruption, according to the National Institutes of Health. Other symptoms of the disease include visual disturbances, and thinking and memory problems.

When using Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), patients follow arrows on a screen and step on the corresponding arrow on a pad laid on the ground. The game can become more difficult as the arrows move faster and the directions become more complicated.

“We thought this game might motivate them, because it’s fun, and entertaining and because the game gives a lot of feedback,” Anne Kloos, assistant professor of clinical health and rehabilitation sciences at the university, told Fox. When a player does well, encouraging words appear, such as “excellent” or “fantastic.”

The game has shown some promise already. Tracy Blackwell, 51, who was diagnosed with MS when she was 39 years old, said that the game had helped her, even when her medications did not. “I couldn’t do anything, My left leg dragged, my left arm was almost useless, so it stopped me from living day to day,” she told Fox.

“Now I’m in infusion therapy where I just go once a month,” she told Fox. “Before I participated in the study, I’d say I walked maybe to the mailbox — and that’s not very far — and now I walk a half mile every day, and I do DDR every day.”

As video games have become more interactive, older patients or patients with disabilities have been using them more than ever. Among Parkinson’s disease patients, who also have difficulties with balance, the Wii Balance Board has been shown to help improve balance, mobility, and gait, when used alongside exercise

Join the Discussion