Virtual reality is one of the top modern technologies that can be used in various fields to create immersive experience of a given situation. In recent times, VR has found several use cases in the world of healthcare, and one such area is pain management.
Using VR In Pain Management
It is estimated that around 50 million U.S. adults are affected by chronic pain. Treatments such as medications and cognitive behavioral therapy are mostly employed to ease the pain.
Now, virtual reality in healthcare has been found to be highly effective in pain management and it is being used in various hospitals around the world. The use of VR has been proven to reduce the intensity of pain and anxiety felt by patients.
In the past, providers often used opioids to treat chronic pain. However, research has shown that opioids have several disadvantages, which increased the necessity for alternative modes of treatment. Virtual reality has been found to reduce patients’ need for opioids as well as other medications, including anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs.
How Does VR Work In Relieving Pain?
VR in healthcare is effective because it distracts the brain from thinking about pain. When a patient uses a VR device, the virtual environment engrosses the person’s attention, while blocking pain signals from reaching the brain. Users wear a head-mounted display, like an Oculus, with a close-proximity screen that produces a sensation of being transported into a lifelike, three-dimensional universe.
The virtual environment could be a serene nature setting, or an underwater swim with a dolphin. Soothing sounds are incorporated such as the chirping of birds or the bubbling of a waterfall. Certain devices have a narrator’s voice guiding the person through the virtual environment or through breathing exercises, redirecting their thoughts away from pain.
The VR device provides sensory and tactile feedback, and with the help of this, the patient is able to engage the neurotransmitter mechanisms that reduce pain.
Increasing Popularity Of VR In Pain Management
Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital has recently been studying VR to see if it has the potential to manage various types of chronic pain. In November 2021, the FDA authorized the marketing of a prescription home-use VR device called the EaseVRx to help with pain reduction in adults.  VRKure, a pioneer in building next-level AR/VR medical solutions, affirms that medical VR will become a vital tool in pain management in the near future.
VR is also gaining popularity to manage pain safely and effectively in hospitalized patients. A Cedars-Sinai study found that pain scores were significantly reduced with VR use, irrespective of the cause of pain or reason for hospitalization. VR technology is being employed to manage pain related to a wide variety of known painful medical procedures. Patients who were immersed in VR reported markedly lower levels of pain and general distress, and expressed a desire to use VR again during painful medical procedures.
VR technology is a mind-body treatment that is proving to be invaluable as an alternative to traditional pain management. By distracting the mind from pain and preventing pain signals from reaching the brain, it offers healthcare professionals the ability to manage pain in a risk-free, non-invasive manner.