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Experts Consider if VR Is A Solution to Chronic Pain

A Californian startup is investigating if VR can aid patients suffering chronic pain.

Virtual reality (VR) is already being utilised in hospitals to distract patients from pain during and after medical procedures. Some researchers are also looking into the idea that VR could be used to help patients who are suffering from chronic pain.

Doctors and other experts are researching to see if VR technology can assist patients with reducing chronic pain. For those suffering from chronic pain, it is often a lifelong, debilitating condition that can only be controlled with powerful painkillers such as those with an opioid base.

One company, the start-up CognifiSense is testing out a VR system that involves the patient donning a VR headset. They are the presented with an image of their own body, with the areas experiencing pain highlighted in sharp colours. The idea behind this visualisation is that it allows the patient to distance themselves from the pain.

The effectiveness of this therapy is currently unknown, as trials and tests are in extremely early ‘proof-of-concept’ stages. However, this form of treatment is being approached seriously by mainstream medical experts, who are looking for ways to tackle the ongoing opioid crisis in the USA.

“Given that we’re in early developmental stage, we are not able to share publicly the details of our testing to date, except that the qualitative testing completed so far looks promising,” CognifiSense CEO Tassilo Baeuerle said in a statement, “Given this early stage, we also feel providing testimonials might be premature and not give a meaningful, balanced picture.”

The American Academy of Pain Medicine recently had a session where the use of VR techniques for pain management for both acute and chronic pain were discussed, and experts commented that the technology was ‘gaining traction’ within the field.

“It’s definitely worth studying,” says Philip Bain, a primary care doctor and division chief with Madison, Wisc.-based SSM Health Dean Medical Group, an integrated healthcare system. “Chronic pain is very complicated and different things work for different patients.”

For future coverage of VR technology in medicine, keep checking back with VRFocus.

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