VR has already proved successful in addressing any pain associated with acute procedures, working by distracting the patients. But chronic pain usage is also coming up, and can significantly improve the lives of those living with chronic pain! For example some applications teach breathing techniques and positive thinking to cope with pain.
Virtual Reality: A New Hope (Alternative) For Pain Management
Virtual reality (VR) can improve patients’ lives and aid in pain perception, recovery, and rehabilitation. Furthermore, there are several patient-centric applications that have been tested to deliver results leading us here at ISPINE to believe that VR is emerging to be an excellent substitute for both opioids and even marijuana for pain management.
VR technology has been shown to provide meaningful improvements in several key areas:
- Improved pain management: distraction experiences as alternatives to pain-killers
- Improved adherence: the heightened sense of experience and game-like features of VR training help motivate patients and engage them more fully in the treatment process
- Telemedicine: cellphone-based or standalone VR systems can be used to extend the reach of the clinician and support remotely managed home recovery as well as enhance chronic disease management and protocol adherence
One of the most common references of VR applications is its use as a “painkiller”, and is even more relevant today with the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States which has resulted in almost 100 people dying every day due to opioid drug overdoses. In the U.S. alone, 116 million adults struggle with chronic pain at a cost of $635 billion in lost productivity and treatment. In 2012, healthcare providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers, which is enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.
While cannabis is being looked in to as an alternative, the potential of VR, without any potential addiction-risks cannot be overlooked. VR has already proved successful in addressing any pain associated with acute procedures, working by distracting the patients. But chronic pain usage is also coming up, and can significantly improve the lives of those living with chronic pain! For example some applications teach breathing techniques and positive thinking to cope with pain. These can also incorporate data from breath and heart rate sensors to provide more personalized effects. The immersive experience of virtual reality can also help patients overcome phobias such as acrophobia (fear of heights), arachnophobia (fear of spiders), fear of flying and social phobias, by acknowledging that the scenarios are not real, boosting their confidence. Other applications include simulated environments for treating those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. This works by creating a relaxing and calming environment for treating stress and anxiety while providing relief from the realities of lives.