We have covered a lot of pain management programs that seek alternatives to pharmaceuticals. There is a lot of interest in such solutions these days, especially in light of the opioid abuse epidemic.

A study by researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center examined the effects of virtual reality (VR) as a treatment for pain management. The project included 120 adult patients with a variety of medical conditions ranging from orthopedic injuries to cancer. All patients had an average pain score of at least 3 on a scale of 10 in the 24 hours prior to the start of the study.

Half of the subjects were given VR goggles configured with a selection of meditation and relaxation activities. The other half were asked to watch meditation and relaxation content on their in-room television screens. Both groups were advised to watch the content three times per day in 10 minute sessions — and as needed for breakthrough pain — for three days.

The VR group averaged 1.7 points lower on the pain scale than the TV group. For patients with a baseline score of 7 or higher, the VR group showed an average drop of 3 points. As a result of the study, some of the patients have continued to use the VR treatments at home to help manage chronic pain.

VR clearly has a role to play in pain management, including chronic pain which can lead to dependency and abuse when treated with pharmaceuticals.