Study: Virtual reality reduced pain scores by 24%

Hospitals may soon be replacing pain medication with a virtual reality headset, following new evidence that the technology can help manage pain.

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found virtual reality headsets could be a safe and effective alternative therapy for pain management, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health.

Comparing patients using a Samsung Gear Oculus VR headset versus a control group that had patients watch a nature video on a 14-inch television screen, researchers found patients using VR had a 24% drop in their pain scores, almost double those who were watching on a television.

A recent study released this week showed virtual reality can be used to prepare surgical residents for their first days of trauma care, and others have said VR is “arguably the most exciting technology in medical education on the horizon today.”

Lead author of the study, Brennan Spiegel, M.D., has said VR is an untapped resource for pain management and envisions “prescribing” VR sessions to patients. But the study noted that more research is needed to understand the true impact.