New tests being conducted seem to indicate VR can be used for pain management, as evidenced by some U.S. studies with a direct focus on how the technology can benefit children. That follows earlier reports about the use of virtual reality being tested by French researchers in medical institutions. The new concept appears to follow the same basic principles; by placing a patient’s concentration and attention on something other than ongoing medical procedures, the experience of pain is reduced. That appears to be something VR is very good at accomplishing. Led by clinical psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gold at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, over 300 children have gone through treatment so far with pain management being augmented via VR. Gold, who is the director of the Pediatric Pain Management Clinic in the Department of Anesthesiology Critical Care Medicine at the institution, says that those tests have been predominantly successful but that challenges remain.
Distracting the mind and eyes through deep engagement, Gold says, reduces the response to pain and is particularly useful in children with severe anxiety sensitivity. However, although VR has grown in terms of quality and immersion, there is still some difficulty in determining which candidates are best suited for leveraging the solution. Moreover, the content itself needs to be both stimulating enough to distract from a given medical procedure and age appropriate. One benefit to using the technology with children, Gold indicates, is that they appear to be less prone to suffering some of the negative effects of VR. Namely, motion sickness and visual discomfort which leads to disorientation often experienced by adults.
The first trials were conducted with fairly standard clinical procedures such as blood draws. However, the success of those has led to Gold pushing for further studies being conducted at Botox centers for treatment of contractures in children. Of course, this type of pain management solution is still very early in development and Gold notes that there’s a lot of research still left to be done. With that said, he also joins doctors who are experimenting with this use of the technology in welcoming those studies. According to Gold, VR will almost certainly have additional uses in the treatment of acute and chronic pain management, in addition to benefiting the field of anxiety and stress management.