Virtual reality is one of many advances in technology that is rapidly shaping our world, and the people that live in it. While these technologies continue to have a long way to go with their capabilities, there are no signs that they are slowing down anytime soon. One industry that has began making much more use out of virtual reality is healthcare, which can help people are the world to get better access to treatments for various ailments, including chronic pain. How exactly are they making use of this growing technology in the healthcare sector?
Combating Chronic Pain With Virtual Reality
For many people who are living with daily chronic pain, the emotional toll can become just as overwhelming as the physical pain itself. As a result, it is more difficult for them to maintain a normal life, as they feel the pain both physically and mentally. When a person experiences pain at a constant state, research has showed that their mental state can actually contribute to higher levels of pain. To help combat this, researchers began a trial using virtual reality as a way to help bring chronic pain patients to a better mental state. The results have been overwhelmingly positive.
Cedars-Sinai Hospital is one of the medical facilities that has made significant use of virtual reality in healthcare. They currently run the largest documented therapeutic virtual reality program in the world, having treated over 2,500 patients in recent years. According to their research, virtual reality is able to tap into the parts of one’s brain that not only controls pain, but can also help one’s brain to rewire its reactions to pain.
While the hospital’s virtual reality program is currently used on patients who are physically staying in the hospital, the results have been promising. Currently, over 100 hospitals around the world have followed in Cedars-Sinai Hospital by implementing virtual reality as an option for chronic pain treatment.
In addition to helping to rewire the way that one’s brain reacts to pain, research has also found that it helps patients engage in immersive distraction. Immersive distraction refers to the way that virtual reality can distract a person well enough, that they are no longer thinking about their chronic pain, but focused on what is happening in their virtual reality headset.
While more research needs to be done to more measure the effectiveness of using virtual reality, the results thus far have been encouraging, particularly when trying to find a route beyond heavy medications for chronic pain. Additionally, as virtual reality continues to evolve, so will the ways that it can be used in the healthcare sector.