(LOS ANGELES) 

A new study suggests virtual reality could play a crucial role in providing pain relief.

The Cedars-Sinai study of 100 hospitalised patients with scores greater than three – on the zero to 1o Numeric Pain Rating Scale – demonstrated that using VR reduced discomfort.

Half wore VR googles and experienced calming scenes, including a helicopter ride over scenic parts of Iceland and images of swimming with whales. This group recorded a 24% reduction in pain. The other half watched a two-dimensional nature video, with relaxing music and calming scenes. They recorded a smaller decrease of 13.2%.

“Results indicate virtual reality may be an effective tool along with traditional pain management protocols,” said Brennan Spiegel, MD, director of Cedars-Sinai’s Health Service Research. “This gives doctors and patients more options than medication alone.”

The exact reasons for the positive results are unclear but Spiegel links it to what he calls immersive distraction.

“We believe virtual reality hijacks the senses, but in a good way,” he said. “It creates an immersive distraction that stops the mind from processing pain, offering a drug-free supplement to traditional pain management.”

To build on the study, a larger trial is now underway to “measure the impact of virtual reality on the use of pain medications, length of hospital stay and post-discharge satisfaction scores,” Spiegel added.