Recently, a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research discussed the efficacy of virtual reality (VR) as a potential method for pain relief. The study focused on patients receiving a bone marrow biopsy, a notoriously painful and uncomfortable procedure. Patients were randomly assigned to one of two methods for pain control: traditional pain relief or VR. Those who chose the VR option were given four 3-dimensional VR environments to choose from, designed to induce a state of relaxation and light sedation.
The results were encouraging, as the scientists found that there was no significant difference in the intensity of pain, anxiety scores, or blood pressure between the two cohorts. Furthermore, the patients and physicians that used the VR method were satisfied with the results.
The potential applications of this technology are immense. The global pain crisis is one of the most important and devastating problems in the healthcare industry and chronic pain is becoming increasingly prevalent. Technology companies are investing heavily in VR and augmented reality, with products such as Meta's VR and Microsoft's Hololens being developed for multi-application use, including for advanced gaming, reality-like immersion, and even for business and professional use.
More research is needed, but the potential for VR and augmented reality to be harnessed for pain relief is promising. With the integration of the right technology and appropriate patient safety protocols, these new modalities could be used to help resolve one of healthcare's most pressing problems.