Can virtual reality therapy help alleviate chronic pain?

June 5, 2014
© Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers

Chronic pain due to disease or injury is common, and even prescription pain medications cannot provide acceptable pain relief for many individuals. Virtual reality as a means of distraction, inducing positive emotions, or creating the perception of "swapping" a limb or bodily area affected by chronic pain in a virtual environment can be a powerful therapeutic tool, as described in several articles in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

Editor-in-Chief Brenda K. Wiederhold, PhD, MBA, BCB, BCN and coauthors Kenneth Gao, Camelia Sulea, MD, and Mark Wiederhold, MD, PhD, FACP from the Virtual Reality Medical Institute, Brussels, Belgium and Virtual Reality Medical Center, San Diego, CA, created pleasant virtual experiences that patients could navigate through in simulated worlds to distract them from pain. They report both the patients' subjective ratings of relief and how those compared to physiological measurements to assess pain responses in the article "Virtual Reality as a Distraction Technique in Chronic Pain Patients."

In "Application of Virtual Body Swapping to Patients with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: A Pilot Study," Bomyi Jeon and coauthors from Korea evaluated the effectiveness of virtual body swapping therapy in improving pain intensity and "body perception disturbance" in patients with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a chronic progressive disease characterized by severe pain and disturbed body perception.

Rocio Herrero, PhD and a team of researchers from Spain report significant improvement in multiple factors affecting quality of life for patients with fibromyalgia syndrome, a condition. They describe their therapeutic approach in the article "Virtual Reality for the Induction of Positive Emotions in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia: A Pilot Study over Acceptability, Satisfaction, and the Effect of Virtual Reality on Mood."

"Studies have shown that VR can be an effective adjunct for both chronic and acute pain conditions," says Dr. Wiederhold. "Future possibilities for VR's use in pain conditions may include such diverse groups as military personnel, space exploration teams, and our ever increasing elderly population."

Explore further: Can virtual reality-based therapy help veterans overcome posttraumatic stress disorder?

More information: The articles are available free on the Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking website.

Related Stories

Can virtual reality-based therapy help veterans overcome posttraumatic stress disorder?

March 25, 2014
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common among military veterans and together with the often-related anxiety, depression, and psychological and emotional impairment can dramatically affect quality of life. A type of ...

Low tolerance for pain? The reason may be in your genes

April 20, 2014
Researchers may have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual ...

Can online chat rooms and 'cyberhugs' help chronic pain sufferers cope?

March 18, 2013
The more than 100 million Americans living with chronic pain and daily suffering often have limited outlets to talk about their conditions with others who can understand and offer comfort. Online chatrooms may provide a beneficial ...

Vibration exercise study finds some relief for fibromyalgia

May 29, 2014
A pilot study by Indiana University researchers found that whole-body vibration exercise may reduce pain symptoms and improve aspects of quality of life in individuals diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Can therapy using robots reduce pain and anxiety among pediatric patients?

April 4, 2013
Pet therapy can help patients cope with the pain, stress, and emotional effects of a serious illness, but access to a companion animal is not always possible. Robotic animals may offer the same benefits, as explored in a ...

Virtual world to help relieve patients' pain

June 24, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Researchers in Birmingham are hoping to use the hi-tech world of virtual reality in a bid to relieve the pain of hospital patients.

Recommended for you

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

'Superbugs' study reveals complex picture of E. coli bloodstream infections

July 18, 2017
The first large-scale genetic study of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultured from patients with bloodstream infections in England showed that drug resistant 'superbugs' are not always out-competing other strains. Research by ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Mountain gorillas have herpes virus similar to that found in humans

July 13, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have detected a herpes virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the Epstein-Barr virus in humans, according to a study published today in the journal Scientific ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.