Over 1.5 billion people suffer from chronic intense pain across the globe. Unfortunately, many of those pain issues are unable to be cured or even alleviated. But thanks to some innovative new technology, intense pain might not be as intense in the future.
Virtual reality has already broken into many industries including gaming, advertising, and real estate, but its presence within the healthcare industry could soon help chronic pain sufferers better deal with their problems.
According to Practical Pain Management, the next evolution of virtual reality could provide chronic pain patients with just enough distractions to actually ignore severe pain.
“Our study involved using virtual reality to treat procedural pain management,” said Jeffrey I. Gold, PhD., an attending clinical professor of anesthesiology and physician at the Keck School of Medicine.
Researchers found that a VR headset designed to manage pain and reduce anxiety worked well for their 143 study participants. The participants, aged 10 to 21 years old, underwent a blood draw at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and included patients with various diagnosis including cancer, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and other chronic and acute diseases.
Half of the study patients received standard care: a topic cream or spray applied to the site of the blood draw with a movie playing in the background. The other half received the same standard treatment, but while playing a VR game called Bear Blast. Patients wore VR goggles connected to cellphones and launched red balls at digital bears and other objects within the VR environment.
The experiment concluded that VR significantly reduced acute procedural pain and anxiety in patients compared to the rest of the study participants who only received the traditional care.
“Virtual reality works on pain by drawing the user’s attention away from medical procedures into the virtual world,” added Dr. Gold, who also serves as the director of the Pediatric Pain Management Clinic at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. “In the future, VR environments may target specific acute and chronic pain conditions in children. Some are already doing this with adults.”
If you’re not ready for high-tech VR treatments, however, and need immediate assistance with your intense pain, contact a traditional medical facility right away — and good luck!