In the future, your doctor may prescribe virtual reality games to soothe pain

Over the past few years, numerous studies have been carried out to demonstrate the usefulness of virtual reality in reducing physical pain. What if games and other simulations incorporating this technology could reduce the very sensation of pain? What if your doctor could, in the more or less near future, prescribe you not drugs, but virtual reality video games?

This theory is surprising to say the least, but is the subject of research that could not be more serious. If virtual reality is currently monopolized by automotive professionals, real estate professionals and many others, you should know that some psychologists have been using it for a few years now to treat certain phobias, as well as such as depression or post-traumatic syndromes from which some soldiers suffer.

Video games and movies are already used in hospitals to relax some patients suffering from chronic pain. However, the California-based studio DeepstreamVR has for 20 years specialized in designing applications aimed at relieving physical pain in hospital settings. The COOL! game, developed by this studio, features an otter led by the patient himself, at his own pace and without effort.

(Image credit: DeepstreamVR)

Ted Jones, a researcher at the Behavioral Medicine Institute at Pain Consultants of East Tennessee, based in the city of Knoxville, conducted two studies with DeepstreamVR intended to demonstrate the beneficial effect of virtual reality on patients’ pain. The first study brought together around thirty patients with various chronic pain conditions not related to cancer, who received a single treatment in 5-minute sessions. The second involved ten men and twenty women, whose average age was 50 years.

In this last study, 9 patients felt that they had been completely relieved by the treatment, while 3 of them indicated that they had not noticed any change, rather promising results. Considering all the patients, the pain would have dropped by 33% on average (between before and after the session) and by 60% between the before and during the session.

While virtual reality headsets remain very expensive, we still do not know if users are exposed to addiction concerns. However, virtual reality, already present in hospitals, continues to develop and could indeed be democratized in the field of health.

Sources: MedScape – Online Games

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