Studies show that there is a possibility for pain to be relieved using Virtual reality. This is because psychology plays an important role in how we experience acute and chronic pain. This connection enables us to trick the human brain and manipulate pain controlling thoughts and feelings.
Next time you are about to go to a medical store for some painkillers, maybe you should sit back and consider playing a video game first.
Research has evidence that because psychology plays an important role in how we experience pain, it can manipulate the sensation of pain through our thoughts and feelings.
The rapid technological progress has constantly been successful in reducing stress invoked from pain and this new approach seems more promising. Since virtual reality games are built targeting maximum immersive experience, they have the potential to take our focus away from pain and escape into an unreal world.
Recently this British study as found on Royal Society Open Science has shed light on the underlying science involved in VR pain relief. This involves getting the patient immersed into a virtual environment and controlling the content to supplement pain management with this approach and we’ll likely see this developed more in the future.
Virtual Environments distract us from the pain
The advances in computer graphics and gaming world has opened up expensive technologies to common people. These have always been a way to relieve stress from a busy day for both children and adults.
VR pain relief grows on the foundation laid by video games to develop immersive virtual reality experiences. These stunning experiences can be used on patients during painful procedures like dental treatment or dressing burns.
The idea behind such a procedure is that by placing us in a completely immersive virtual world, a distraction mechanism is being implemented to get us away from the painful experience.
The pain threshold is influenced by impressions
But what gives VR the power to reduce the feeling of pain? Is it the images, sounds or simply the fact that we are concentrating too much this device strapped across our eyes.
This UK study we mentioned about earlier has published in the Royal Society Open Science has provided us with clues by examining the effects of the brain’s visual and auditory sensory information about pain.
The researchers had a group of 32 adults to lower their hands into ice water (approximately 1⁰C) to see how long they could withstand it, while they played a virtual reality game.
This VR game was a racing game, in which individuals were put into a futuristic world, presented through a display mounted on the head along with noise-canceling headphones.
The researchers looked at whether the pain threshold was influenced by different amounts of sensory input. Hence they incorporated these different situations including:
- No external sense impressions at all
- Only the music from the game
- Only the visual images from the game
- Both music and pictures together
It is perhaps not surprising that the study found that the highest pain threshold was present when the visual and auditory sensory inputs were combined.
But the interesting fact is that the music and the pictures alone also boosted the pain threshold.
VR Pain Relief is innovative
The study’s authors argue that the sound has a profound effect on the subjects. They suggest that it is worth exploring different sound types to achieve an even more effective pain relief.
It may also be possible to add other multi-sensory experiences, such as smell and touch to the gaming experience.
Although it is true that we cannot draw too many conclusions from a relatively small laboratory study on healthy subjects. However it is certainly undeniable that the pain experienced using the VR pain relief setup is relatively mild, controllable and less threatening than the pain being experienced by people in real situations.
It demonstrates an innovative approach that VR pain relief has a potential to manipulate various sensory input, both individually and combined to deal with pain in a better way.
Virtual reality experiments can increase knowledge of pain
From a scientific point of view, VR pain relief is all very exciting and can be used on the other side as well.
It seems that we could not only get better at pain management using virtual reality but these techniques can also helps us to better understand the multi-sensorial experience of pain.