Various hospitals around the country are trying a new form of pain relief—giving patients a virtual reality headset during their stay.
Many patients, especially burn victims, deal with incredible amounts of pain during their hospital stay. When changing bandages, often nurses will administer morphine to relieve the pain during the procedure. This new experiment, however, provides an alternative to massive doses of painkillers.
The idea is to use the mind to distract from the excessive discomfort. Like meditation, yoga, and hypnosis, the mind can calm the nervous system. Virtual reality can manipulate the mind. Instead of focusing on pain, the patient is distracted by something that’s hopefully more pleasurable on which to concentrate.
Many doctors are advocating the experimentation of virtual reality to help alleviate pain. Better to swarm the mind with pleasant stimulus than potentially harmful medication. Additionally, painkillers lose their ability to work in low doses after a while; either bigger prescriptions will be necessary, or worse, the patient becomes addicted.
A teenager in the burn ward at the Shriner’s Hospital for Children was given a virtual reality set when her wounds needed cleaning. She was shown a program called “SnowWorld.” It allowed her to “virtually” have snowball fights with snowmen. She claims it distracted her from the pain at first. But then when the set became a little boring, the pain-relieving effects diminished.
This then begs the question: Can virtual reality help those who have chronic pain? No one can answer concretely on that issue. So far, there hasn’t been enough experimentation.
One of the biggest reasons this experiment with technology is so new is because it was unaffordable until now. It used to be that a professional VR set could cost the hospital over $30,000. In today’s market, prices are coming way down. There’s access to more (and even better) hardware. Some sets may run $800, with the PC program costing $1000.
Large corporations like Sony and Facebook are currently, aggressively, competing to create the best and most affordable virtual reality set. This makes the equipment a reasonable investment option for hospitals seeking alternatives for pain relief.
As mentioned, this a new approach, but one that can be a hopeful treatment for those suffering from a wide variety of diseases or injuries. As many patients’ testimonials show, virtual reality is effective for pain relief. One woman experienced such tremendous relief that once she was released from the hospital, she bought her set for home. Besides personal accounts, psychologist Hunter Hoffman points to MRI results. Images from brain scans clearly showed that patients experienced less pain using virtual reality.
Virtual Reality For Pain
If virtual reality is successful as a painkiller, hospitals will save a fortune in expenses (and so will insurance and patients.) It’s exciting to see how technology can help with our health.
For more articles on living a healthy, pain-free life, check out www.GetThrive.com