A team from imperial used VR video to reduce people’s scores of understanding ongoing pain as well as their sensitivity to painful stimuli.
A new small study has let out that watching immersive 360 videos of icy arctic senses helps to relieve severe burning pain and may treat chronic pain as well.
Few brilliant scientists from the Imperial College of London discovered that using virtual reality headsets could conflict and restrain increased sensitivity to pain, by immersing people in scenes of the frozen ocean, sprawling icescapes, and icebergs. The results were published in the journal pain report.
A team of scientists of imperial used Virtual reality video to reduce people’s ongoing pain and the sensitivity to painful stimuli.
According to the researchers, the findings add to the growing evidence for the potential technology to help patients with chronic pain.
Beyond the distracting effect, they think immersing patients in virtual reality may actually trigger the body’s own inbuilt pain-fighting-systems. Reducing their sensitivity to painful stimuli and lessen the extremity of on-going pain.
Virtual reality may be interfering with the process in the brainstem, spinal cord and the brain that are known to be the key parts in our inbuilt pain-fighting systems. They are instrumental in regarding the speed of increased sensitivity to pain.
Dr. Sam Hughes- the first author on the paper is from MSk lab at Imperial College. One of the important characteristics of chronic pain is you have upgraded sensitivity to stimuli”. This statement means that the patient’s nerves are constantly firing and letting brains of their heightened state of pain.
Virtual reality has been used as a method to distract patients from the pain. There has been success in minor dental procedures requiring a local anesthetic. The latest study looked to see if it could work in a simulated model of chronic pain and the results were pretty good in shape.
Procedure of the trial
In the trial, 15 mentally sound and physically healthy volunteers were selected were given a topical cream on leg skin containing capsaicin- the compound present in chillis that makes your mouth burn. The capsaicin sensitized the leg skin making the area more vulnerable to painful stimuli (a small electric shock). It mimics the high sensitivity of people with chronic pain such as lower back pain, arthritis, or nerve pain.
Volunteers were then asked to rate the pain caused by the capsaicin on the scale of 0-100 set from no pain to worst pain. All of this was done while either watching a VR scene of Arctic exploration or watching a still image of an arctic scene on the monitor.
They did a few more test cases including when a stimulus applied directly to the sensitized skin area. The team found the ongoing pain was reduced with VR immersion. The same effect was not seen in people who looked at still images, depicting immersion as the key factor.
What was the aim of the study?
“The aim of the study was to show VR has the ability to change the pathological processing associated with chronic pain,” quoted by Dr. Hughes. We now may know that there could be changes in the body’s pain relief system’s which can affect how pain sensitivity is processed in the spinal cord.