New Study: The Impact of Virtual Reality on Chronic Pain

A new published independent study of VR for chronic nonmalignant pain (Jones, Moore, Choo, 2016) found the VR application, COOL!, significantly reduced pain by over 60%.

Read the article at PLOS

BACKGROUND

Many Americans suffer from chronic pain, and the epidemic over prescription and misuse of opioids is daily national news. VR has emerged as an effective approach to help relieve pain with less reliance on drugs. The evidence for VR pain relief with high levels of acute pain in hospital procedures is well established with hundreds of studies. VR for chronic pain relief is the new frontier, and recent studies are showing very promising results.

RESULTS

Average reported pain

Pain Pre-Session During VR Post VR
1-10 Pain Scale 5.7 2.6 4.1
Average Change -3.1 (60%) -1.6 (33%)

All participants (100%) reported a decrease in pain to some degree between pre-session pain and during-session pain. Ten participants (33%) reported 100% pain relief while doing the virtual reality session.

ABSTRACT

The treatment of chronic pain could benefit from additional non-opioid interventions. Virtual reality (VR) has been shown to be effective in decreasing pain for procedural or acute pain but to date there have been few studies on its use in chronic pain. The present study was an investigation of the impact of a virtual reality application for chronic pain. Thirty (30) participants with various chronic pain conditions were offered a five-minute session using a virtual reality application called Cool! Participants were asked about their pain using a 0–10 visual analog scale rating before the VR session, during the session and immediately after the session. They were also asked about immersion into the VR world and about possible side effects. Pain was reduced from pre-session to post-session by 33%. Pain was reduced from pre-session during the VR session by 60%. These changes were both statistically significant at the p < .001 level. Three participants (10%) reported no change between pre and post pain ratings. Ten participants (33%) reported complete pain relief while doing the virtual reality session. All participants (100%) reported a decrease in pain to some degree between pre-session pain and during-session pain. The virtual reality experience was found here to provide a significant amount of pain relief. A head mounted display (HMD) was used with all subjects and no discomfort was experienced. Only one participant noted any side effects. VR seems to have promise as a non-opioid treatment for chronic pain and further investigation is warranted.