a woman is sitting inside a crossword puzzle with a pencil in her hand. There is an outline of a brain around the puzzle.

Reflecting On The Benefits Of 'Gaming' With and Without MS

Last updated: October 2022

Gross motor skills are movements that involve larger muscles such as legs, arms, and trunk. Fine motor skills are movements involving smaller muscle groups such as those in the hand and wrist.1 My MS trajectory has severely impacted my fine and gross motor skills. What's this mean?

It's important to identify what I can do and what is beneficial for me at this juncture and going forward. Specifically, it's important to identify what games I can do and those beneficial for me at this juncture and going forward.

Playing games pre-MS

When I was in high school, I was introduced to playing tennis and I loved it. I wasn't on a team or exceptionally good at it, but I found it enjoyable. It was one of the activity choices during 'open' gym class and several of us would like to get a fun, non-intense game or two in for laughs (in college also). Our 'fun' activity was a good workout for our bodies. It required running, swinging, pivoting, and stretching.

Enjoying games with my children

Years later, my Elementary school-aged son learned how to play the game of chess while in his afterschool program. He not only enjoyed and learned to play it, he learned to play it well. He played with opponents as well as against himself. I remain impressed with his skilled "chessmanship". And playing the game, I learned, was advantageous in that it improves concentration and memory, enhances reading and math skills, and fosters logic, critical thinking, and creativity.

My daughter came along and at a young age found pleasure in playing cards. She plays a variety of games from Go Fish to Solitaire to Uno. Some games require multiple players although others can be played individually. For example, Uno (which was a family game night favorite) is best played with two or more people, while Solitaire can be played individually. Playing cards are favorable in that they can teach math and memory skills, as well as strategic thinking. Also, the conversation and friendly rivalry that comes with sitting down to play cards can strengthen ties with family and friends.

MS changed my motor skills

With all of that explained, although my intention was always to resume playing tennis, MS robbed me of my opportunity when it affected my gross motor skills. Walking and running are no longer a part of my life. I never learned to play chess, but I enjoyed playing cards. Yet, it's incredibly difficult with my compromised fine motor skills which have tainted my dexterity and ability to grasp. This is why it's important to identify what I can do and what is beneficial for me - what games I can do and those beneficial for me. And I did.

Changing my games due to MS

Exercise strengthens our muscles and increases flexibility to handle physical challenges. I am sedentary and for that, (maintenance) physical and occupational therapy help me. However, "mental calisthenics", known also as brain games or memory games, can do the same for our mind. My neurologist told me, and I have read, that frequent participation in brain-stimulating activities can reduce, or delay, cognitive decline, and regular memory-training exercises can reduce, or delay, functional decline, and cognitive ability.

The benefits of the host of games that I love to play daily...online crossword puzzles, memory, word unscramble, card games, and mathematical games...are that they strengthen, improve, and maintain skills such as problem-solving, reasoning, mental flexibility, and sequencing. So, what's this mean? To reiterate - it was important for me to identify what games I can do and the benefits for me at this juncture and going forward to keep fun and function alive!

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