Technology Takes Aim at Reducing Painkiller Use

virtual reality treatment for painAs more healthcare providers and patients come to the realization that prescription narcotics are not nearly as effective at treating pain long-term as they were once believed, there continues to be more effort placed on finding alternative solutions to pain management. Another driving factor is simply the number of lives ruined and lost associated with opioid painkillers due to addiction and overdose deaths.

One recent article highlights some work being done by a start-up called Applied VR, which uses virtual reality headsets and games in various applications. In this case, they’re working with hospitals and other institutions to examine the effects that a simple virtual reality game can have on reducing pain symptoms and anxiety.

Applied VR has created games to help patients reduce pain or anxiety. One game consists of the patient walking very slowly down a path that has bears and other animals. They are tasked with throwing balls at the animals. And unlike other games, players do not die or get injured.
The games are intentionally slow and mesmerizing. And research suggests that they are effective.

Prior to using the game, patients were asked to rate their pain on a scale of zero to ten. On average the patients rated their pain as 5.5. After playing the virtual reality game for 20 minutes, the patients dropped their ratings to a 4.0. This reduction of roughly 25% has impressed many in the medical community.

The use of such calming techniques can have many applications, including after an accident, injury or some other traumatic event. It can also help relieve symptoms of pain and anxiety before and after procedures ranging from simply drawing blood to complicated surgery.

Considering that more than 165,000 people have died in the United States in relation to prescription narcotics since 1999, we all should be welcoming alternative solutions for relief that do not introduce people to addictive substances.