Virtual Reality Helps to Distract Patients From Their Chronic Pain

Several studies show how virtual reality can be used to comfort chronic pain sufferers.
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Several studies show how virtual reality can be used to comfort chronic pain sufferers.

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It is hard to relieve a patient of chronic pain caused by injury or illness. Even with prescription pain killers, many still do not get relief from the constant pain. It's possible, however, that patients can use virtual reality to distract from their pain, while inducing positive emotions. It can even create an illusion in which an the area of the body causing pain is swapped in the virtual environment.

In several recent studies, researchers were able to subside patients' chronic pain by creating a pleasant virtual world. In Virtual Reality as a Distraction Technique in Chronic Pain Patients, researchers note that patients reported a drop in pain after their virtual reality experience.

"Studies have shown that VR can be an effective adjunct for both chronic and acute pain conditions," says Dr. Mark Wiederhold of the Virtual Reality Medical Institute. "Future possibilities for VR's use in pain conditions may include such diverse groups as military personnel, space exploration teams, and our ever increasing elderly population."

In Application of Virtual Body Swapping to Patients with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: A Pilot Study, researchers used methods such as virtual body swapping therapy and body perception disturbance to improve the pain intensity in patients suffering from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

A team of researchers from Spain reported how virtual reality was used to induce positive emotions in patients suffering from fibromyalgia syndrome. Their article, "Virtual Reality for the Induction of Positive Emotions in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia," shows that a large majority of participants felt at least somewhat better after their virtual reality experience.

While, in most cases, more testing is needed, virtual reality can become a real form of therapy for reducing chronic pain. This is especially true for cases in which prescription therapy has been unsuccessful.