The opioid crisis has increased interest in non-pharmacological solutions for pain management, and one of the promising technologies for this application is virtual reality (VR). One problem is that the required hardware — the goggles and other supporting components — tend to be expensive. Another problem is that most VR goggles have wired connections, which can limit a user’s movements and sense of immersion.
Oculus is a company owned by Facebook, and is known for its popular VR hardware. The company recently released its new Quest model that starts at $400. An all-in-one device, it does not require a separate computer and thus does not need any wires to connect it to another device. While these are attractive attributes for video games, they also hold appeal for developers of health and medical applications.
One of the early partners for the Quest platform is Karuna Labs, a company that has been developing VR applications for pain management. It uses the concept of “virtual embodiment” and has different modules for different body areas, such as upper or lower limbs, neck, or lower back. The system works to reprogram the brain to reduce or eliminate the negative responses to the pain sensations.
Karuna sells their systems only through local providers. The company offers a system for clinical settings, but also has a version intended for home use. This is an important advancement, as it means that patients will be able to get treatment at home on their own without having to travel to a doctor’s office or rehab center. This is another example of how we are empowering patients to take more control over their health by making it more convenient.