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Healing Pain with Virtual Reality

patient using virtual reality headset to treat pain

We see this as a science.  Using therapeutic virtual reality to allow patients to escape a jail cell of a hospital.  A lot of people think of VR as just simply gaming and entertainment, and we start to help them understand that it’s so much more than that.

Virtual reality helps us redefine kind of what we do for actual patient care.  Our patients suffer, they suffer grievously, they suffer physically, emotionally, socially. What we’ve been doing is treating them with virtual reality.

There are two reasons why VR really works, one is it blocks out all the threatening sights and sounds. Just removing the environment alone, blindfolding yourself to it and replacing it with something pleasant.  The second part is the more pain you’re in, the more you need to displace that focus onto something else.

I realized how powerful the illusion of virtual reality can be. By overwhelming the mind with signals, we can essentially distract it.  You can actually reduce the pain that you feel at the time. They’ve even shown this in fMRIs, that your pain receptors don’t light up the same way.

Everyone talks right now about the fact that we’re in a pain crisis. You talk about the opioid epidemic that’s going on. Everyone is looking for a solution. We know that VR has a role to play.  And what we’ve seen is that it reduces pain by about 24% after just about ten minutes on average.

It is not necessarily a replacement for opioids, but when somebody has acute pain, it’s at that vulnerable moment where we can potentially insert something like virtual reality, rather than sowing the seeds of opioid dependency by starting somebody at that moment on an opioid.

So we’re focusing specifically on pain and anxiety.  If you think about when someone is going to a hospital or an outpatient clinic, there can be a lot of fear and anxiety. And sometimes on the walls of these places, they’ll put a picture of a beach scene up there. Well think about it with VR, we can actually, literally, transport them to a beach.

They’re in an immersive 360 degree environment. It’s not like watching a movie. It’s something different and you can see it.  And it’s just incredible, the transformation that you can observe almost instantly.  The breathing slows and you can see the body language, the patient sort of comfortably falls back into their bed and almost surrenders to this experience.

And that’s when we realized that the treatment is having an effect.  Your mind is elsewhere, you’re not.  What we’re doing is we want to build out a platform that we can, think of it as a VR pharmacy of sort of therapeutic and escapism type content.

The library of different visualizations.  We think of this as a new field. I need to be able to pick and choose the right treatment for the right patient at the right time, just like with any other medication.  Because once you see the success, once you see the smile on a patient’s face, who’s in pain or experiencing anxiety, you get it.

It’s moments like that, when you’re impacting a patient.  That shows the power a technology could have.

Source Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYk1A3VaqE4


  1. I love this! There must also be loads of other applications for this technology. Do you have anything on the use of VR with dementia patients?
    Also, why don’t you have somewhere I can sign up to get notified when you post new articles that I might be interested in?

    • Thanks Jules. You’re right, the potential for improving people’s lives with this technology is huge. From assisting people to re-mobilise after an accident or a stroke to assisting in the care of people with Alzheimer’s. We are intrigued, so you can be sure there will be more posts on this topic in the future!
      Thanks for the suggestion about having a way to subscribe. We will certainly look in to that.
      James & the Team at Gadget Giz


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