Back pain is a major problem. Not only does it result in lost worker productivity, it also can lead to opioid dependence and abuse. As a result, healthcare professionals and other researchers are seeking alternatives to medication as a way to treat chronic pain.

Five companies are working together on a major collaboration in this area. Travelers Companies, Cedars-Sinai, Samsung Electronics America, Bayer, and applied VR have launched a 16-month clinical research project to explore the use of virtual reality (VR) along with other non-pharmaceutical treatments for chronic back pain. The trial will rely on a Samsung Gear VR headset, using Oculus technology, along with an Aleve TENS unit and biosensors from applied VR. The system will deliver pain management content to the subjects, and will monitor their daily activities, productivity, and pain medication consumption. The study hopes to enroll 90 to 140 subjects, aged 18 to 65.

In order for wearable technology to become an accepted alternative for monitoring and treating chronic conditions such as back pain, we will need serious studies that can provide solid evidence of whether or not these approaches are effective. This collaboration between many companies signals the industry’s interest in providing hard evidence that can help convince healthcare professionals that these alternative treatments have merit.