Virtual Reality (VR) technology can be used to significantly reduce pain in patients, according to a new study published in JMIR Health. Following the application of Virtual Reality therapy it was found that patients reported a 24% drop in their pain scores.
The study looked at one hundred hospitalised patients. All of the patients who participated in the study were all experiencing pain scores of more than 3 according to the Numeric Pain Rating Scale. This scale ranges from 0 through to 10.
Half of the patients were given virtual reality headsets. They then participated in a VR experience designed to calm them. This included experiences such as swimming with whales or viewing scenic landscapes from aboard a helicopter. The patients who participated in this immersive VR experience noted that their pain scores drop by 24%.
The second group of patients were exposed to a traditional, two dimensional video. This was accompanied by calming music. These patients saw a drop in their reported pain scores of 13.2%.
The actual means by which VR can reduce pain is yet to be determined. One hypothesis is that the immersive quality of VR absorbs the focus of the brain. This means the patients don’t focus on the pain stimulus to the same degree.
One of the most exciting aspects of VR for pain treatment, is that it offers a drug free alternative to pain reduction. This is by no means the only way that VR is being used in medical treatment.
VR has demonstrated early signs of being useful in treating addiction. Virtual Reality therapy has also be used to reduce anxiety using similarly calming VR experiences as in the pain reduction study.
The success of the initial study is being expanded to a larger trial. This larger study will examine at other impacts of virtual reality therapy. This includes the length that patients stay at the hospital and how they rate their experience at the hospital after being discharged.