A New Kind Of Pain Management That Involves No Drugs
Pain is a real problem in the United States, and over the past few years, there has been a real push to cut down on the amount of narcotic medications that are being prescribed. For those who are truly in pain, the threat of losing their go-to method of relief is frightening. On the other hand, pain medications really don’t do a whole lot—a lot less than what was previously believed. People who are suffering from chronic pain, and despite taking their medications responsibly, are still struggling. Now, there is a new kid on the block in pain management and it doesn’t involve opioids.
Howard Rose is a virtual reality guru who has worked on SnowWorld, an experimental therapy aimed at treating burn victims. These patients often have to go through excruciating wound care sessions, that even morphine couldn’t touch. What he found, was those patients who were immersed—zipping through a virtual canyon, while hurling snowballs at snowmen and penguins—in the virtual reality program, SnowWorld, reported up to 50% less pain than those who were using other means to distract from the pain.
Managing Pain With Virtual Reality
Rose went on to develop a technology start-up called Firsthand Technology, with its focus on helping people manage pain. The virtual reality sessions are showing a lot of promise for pain patients. In one small clinical trial of 40 patients, with each receiving 60 VR sessions, they reported a 60-75-percent reduction in pain post-VR sessions than before the sessions began. For a single session, patients experienced 30-50-percent less pain. Compared to morphine with averages near 30-percent, this could be a promising new direction away from opioids and opioid addiction.
Others are also experiencing success with virtual reality and pain management, including the Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego, and the Pain Studies Lab at Simon Fraser University in Canada. For people who struggle with pain on a daily basis, and who are seeking relief outside of opioids, this is a promising new direction. If healthcare providers begin prescribing alternative therapies to pain rather than handing out pills, we have a chance to slow down the opioid epidemic, while providing real relief to those still suffering.
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