Getting Well with Games

Getting Well with Games

There’s nothing “fun” about back pain. But Christopher Burtt is determined to make it entertaining at least part of the time.

When Burtt was laid up for months recovering from back surgery, he struggled not only with pain – but with finding things to do.

“The pain level wasn’t changing and I was just kind of miserable. They told me not to lie down too much. I’d be lying down for 15 minutes and I’d get up and try to do something, and then I’d hurt and I’d lie down again,” recalls the 44-year old resident of South Orange, New Jersey.

“I tried to go on walks. I really struggled to find something to occupy my time. I watched a little bit of TV but it was kind of hard because I didn’t want to lie down too much.”

gI_59466_Slight BlurThat was when Burtt came with the idea for a game to help back pain sufferers pass the time and feel better about themselves.

“I’ve always loved playing games and I’ve designed some games in the past. I kind of had the idea of trying to help myself feel better by making a game where your pain went away,” says Burtt, who has a background in marketing and product management.

At first he thought of a board game – but realized that wasn’t practically for people lying in bed.

A card game was a better alternative. Burtt planned the game in his head, built the first deck using index cards, and played a lot of games with his family to refine the rules and make it entertaining.

The end result is Back Up!, the first card game specifically designed for back pain sufferers. The game can be played while sitting up or lying down, and the cards are slightly larger than standard playing cards for easier handling. The cards can also be held in a player’s hand throughout the game.

Players start the game with a pain level of 10. The goal is to accumulate “Health cards” that have points for various activities such as stretching or yoga.  There are also “Pain cards” that increase your pain level, “Action cards” where you lose or gain cards, and “Resource cards” that require players to spend points on healthcare or insurance.

“I made the rules pretty easy. You’re basically trying to get enough health cards in your hand to make your pain go to zero. You can learn it in just a couple of minutes and the game takes 5 to 15 minutes to play,” says Burtt.

“And I was very cognizant to make it so if you’re on morphine or some nefarious drugs you can still understand how to play it and enjoy playing it.”

Get Well Games logoBurtt has formed a company called Get Well Games and hopes to launch other new health games designed for people dealing with chronic pain, pregnancy or heart disease. He raised money through Kickstarter, an online site for small entrepreneurs.

Five percent of the profits from Burtt’s new business will go to a non-profit called FOCUS (Foundation of Ortohpedics and Complex Spine), which provides orthopedic care in Ghana and other countries in sub Saharan Africa.

The Back Up! card game can be purchased at

Authored by: Pat Anson, Editor