Virtual reality isn’t all fun and games – quite the opposite, in fact. There have been proven instances of this technology being used for a wide variety of remedying purposes, ranging from treating the PTSD of veterans to teaching people how to be more empathetic. Now, virtual reality technology is being fully embraced by some doctors for its pain remedying applications. That’s right, forget Morphine or Percocet – the latest drug of choice for dealing with and managing pain is medically customized virtual reality.
Many in the medical field have turned to virtual reality for its therapeutic capabilities and applications in medical procedures, but the technology’s efficacy in mitigating pain is a new development. Recently, a study found that playing a calm, serene virtual reality game for 20 minutes drastically decreased patient’s acute pain levels. And as VR technology and equipment becomes more readily available and accessible, startups like AppliedVR are spearheading efforts to utilize VR platforms for clinical and medicinal purposes. Based in Los Angeles, AppliedVR has partnered with Stanford, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles to test VR as a drug-free alternative for pain management during procedures like chemotherapy, blood work and epidurals.
“It’s not too different from what we see from giving narcotics,” said Brennan Spiegel, director of health services research at Cedars-Sinai, in regards to the effect virtual reality can have on patients experiencing pain. One of AppliedVR’s most successful VR games in managing pain is a game called Bear Blast, where patients simply move their heads to toss balls at cartoon bears. This straightforward task was shown to reduce a given patient’s pain scale level by an average of 24 percent. To further expound on these promising results, Cedars-Sinai is planning a controlled trial using VR headsets. While doctors express that virtual reality pain management isn’t a one-fits-all prognosis, the technology could lead to some major medical breakthroughs.