Virtually painless! Watching calming 360-degree scenes from the Arctic in virtual reality can help relieve chronic pain, scientists claim
- People were shown icebergs, ice-cold oceans and vast ice landscapes
- Volunteers were exposed to constant pain and minor electrical shocks
- Researchers hope that it can help people with chronic pain in the future
Watching calming virtual reality videos, including arctic scenes, helps with & # 39; intense burning pain & # 39; to relieve and could treat chronic pain in the future, a study found.
Using a virtual reality headset, researchers played full 360-degree views for people with pain and discovered that this helped reduce how much they suffered.
It turned out that the use of the technology not only reduced the perceived pain levels of people, but also their sensitivity to painful stimuli.
The team discovered that when watching a virtual reality scene from the Arctic, the pain scores recorded by their volunteers were lower than when they did not look at the scenes
People were shown scenes of icebergs, ice-cold oceans and vast ice landscapes as part of the small proof-of-concept study.
This contributes to the & # 39; growing evidence & # 39; for the potential of virtual reality technology to help patients with chronic pain, according to the Imperial College London team.
As part of the study, 15 healthy volunteers had applied a topical cream that makes the skin cold and the mouth burn. The team then also applied small electrical shocks to test their response to external stimuli.
Although the results are encouraging, they do not provide concrete evidence of the positive effects of VR, because the test involved a limited number of results based on only a small number of healthy volunteers, the researchers said.
The team says they also want to test the outcome of alternative virtual reality scenes that go beyond just a view of the North Pole.
People were shown scenes from icebergs, icy oceans and vast ice landscapes as part of the small proof-of-concept study
Apart from the distracting effect, Dr. Hughes believes that immersing patients in VR, including showing arctic scenes such as this one, can actually activate their own built-in pain relief systems
The volunteers were asked to rate the pain they suffered on a scale of 0 to 100 while watching a VR scene through a headset or watching a still image of an Arctic scene.
The team discovered that when watching a VR scene, the pain scores that were recorded were lower than both the cream and the electric shocks.
This did not happen with the patients who looked at the still image.
Dr. Sam Hughes, lead author on the paper, said: “One of the most important characteristics of chronic pain is that you get an increased sensitivity to painful stimuli.
& # 39; This means that patients' nerves are constantly firing and telling their brains that they are in an increased state of pain. & # 39;
He said the use of virtual reality headsets helped distract people from the pain they suffered, something that had already been demonstrated in another study with dental patients.
In addition to the distracting effect, Dr. Hughes believes that immersing patients in VR can activate the body's own built-in pain relief systems – reducing their sensitivity to painful stimuli and reducing the intensity of ongoing pain.
& # 39; Our work suggests that VR may interfere with processes in the brain, brain stem, and spinal cord, which are known as important components of our built-in pain relief systems, & # 39; he said.
The results do not provide concrete evidence of the positive effects of VR, because the test included a limited number of results based on only a small number of healthy volunteers, the researchers said. They should also test other scenes that go beyond Arctic vistas such as this one
Researchers hope that virtual reality headsets and the display of beautiful scenes such as those in the photo can be used to help patients with chronic pain conditions who may be deficient in their own pain relief systems
In the future, according to Dr. Hughes may offer an alternative therapy for some chronic pain conditions.
He said it could also help patients with chronic pain who often have a lack of built-in pain relief systems.
& # 39; There are many things to find out, but an exciting aspect of our study is that the VR design we used is completely passive – meaning that patients don't have to use their arms.
& # 39; Possibly this may mean that patients bound to bed or unable to move their limbs, but with chronic pain, can still benefit from this approach, & # 39; said Dr. Hughes.
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