Virtual reality newest tool to alleviate patients' pain

Virtual reality could soon be the future of pain control as the technology becomes cheaper and more easily accessible.

At Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, VR tools are playing a role in studies using games to help patients to alleviate pain. 

The two health systems are using AppliedVR, a startup that has a library of virtual-reality content for pain management, according to an article from Technology Review.

One game used by Cedars-Sinai, Bear Blast, requires that players throw balls at cartoon bears. That program is being used in a study by the health center with on 60 patients participating who have myriad medical conditions, including abdominal pain and chest pains.

Cedars has seen positive results from the study so far, Brennan Spiegel, who directs health services research at the facility, told the publication. About 20 minutes of playing brought pain levels down by 24 percent, he said.

“That’s a pretty dramatic reduction for an acute pain,” he added. “It’s not too different from what we see from giving narcotics.”

That’s positive news today when use and abuse of pain medications, especially opioids, are at dangerously high levels.

The health center is also getting ready to conduct another study in which certain patients use VR headsets during stays in the hospital, according to the article.

In addition to the steps Cedars is taking with VR, Tufts Medical Center has been using the tools for more than a year to help ease patient anxiety. VR helps its patients who are scheduled for surgery feel more comfortable with the facility before they go in for the procedure.

This year, the first cancer surgery was streamed live using virtual reality.

To learn more:
- here's the article