Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Effects of Wii Tennis Game Play on Pain Threshold and Tolerance during a Cold Pressor Task

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Effects of Wii Tennis Game Play on Pain Threshold and Tolerance during a Cold Pressor Task

Article excerpt

Mediation of pain perception typically involves use of drugs, relaxation training, mental imagery, hypnosis, biofeedback, or a combination of two or more of these methods (for a review of such methods, see Basbaum & Bushnell, 2009). However, cognitive distractions can be an excellent adjunct to pain management. For example, Redd, et al. (1987) found cognitive-attentional distraction to be effective in the control of conditioned nausea in pediatric cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. In addition, Vasterling, Jenkins, Tope, and Burish (1993) found the combination of cognitive distraction and relaxation training helped control the side effects of cancer chemotherapy. Multiple research studies have used repetitive cognitive tasks, i.e. repeating a word list, to distract participants from the pain of a cold pressor task (submersion of an area of the body into near freezing water) (Farthing, Venturino, & Brown, 1984; Spanos, McNeil, Gwynn, & Stam, 1984; Unrod, Kassel, & Robinson, 2004). Such cognitive distractions are easier to administer than typical pain management protocols and do not have the addicting effects of pharmacological agents. Video game play may promote such a cognitive distraction.

Past research examining the effects of playing video games has shown significant psychological, social, and behavioral effects. Individuals who frequently play video games are more motivated to master the games and to compete with others (Morlock, Yando, & Nigolean, 1985). Such games have been used to develop friendships, increase motivation, and develop cooperative behavior (Spence, 1988). Gaming experiences have also been effective in reducing maladaptive behaviors such as scar picking (Phillips, 1991) and promoting arm reach in persons with traumatic brain injury (Siestema, Nelson, Mulder, Mervau-Scheidel, & White, 1993). Video games can also be used to distract patients from unpleasant chemotherapy treatments (Schneider & Hood, 2007). While such distractions do not minimize the side effects a patient suffers as a result of chemotherapy treatments, they find the process more tolerable when the distractions are present. Further, Raudenbush, Koon, Cessna, and McCombs (2009) performed two studies assessing whether playing video games would significantly distract participants from painful stimulation via a cold pressor task. In the first study, participants in an action-oriented game condition tolerated pain for a longer time period and reported lower pain intensity than those in a nonaction-oriented game or a non-game control condition. No differences were found on scores of aggressiveness, competitiveness, or prior video game experience, suggesting that these factors play little role. In the second study, participants engaged in six video game conditions and a non-game control condition. Playing action-based video games (such as sports and fighting games) on the Microsoft X-Box gaming system resulted in greater pain tolerance.

Other advances in technology have influenced pain perception as well. Virtual reality can distract the user by immersing them in the virtual environment. When immersion is high, the user focuses on the environment rather than other factors, including pain. Virtual reality has been found to be successful when distracting pain in burn victims and those with severe blunt force trauma injury (Hoffman, et al., 2009) and burn injury (Markus, et al., 2009; Mott, et al., 2008).

Additionally, the Nintendo Wii gaming system has gained popularity for its ease of use for a wide variety of players. Research has shown that it can be effectively used to help rehabilitate stroke victims and cardiac patients, as well as helping in physical therapy to increase patients' range of motion (Peltier, 2007). While there has been research using other video game systems and virtual reality as a distraction from pain, currently there is no research assessing the Nintendo Wii game system as a distraction from pain. …

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