Video Games, Virtual Reality Experiences Helpful as Pain Relievers in Children, Adults
When children and adults with acute and chronic pain become immersed in video game action, they receive some analgesic benefit, and researchers at the American Pain Society’s annual scientific meeting reported that virtual reality is proving to be effective in reducing anxiety and acute pain caused by medical procedures and could be useful for treating chronic pain.
Lynnda M. Dahlquist, PhD, a clinical child psychologist and psychology professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, reviewed her most recent laboratory research studies examining the use of virtual reality and other computer/videogame technologies to provide distraction-based acute pain management.
The use of video games and virtual reality distraction (VRD) technology for procedural pain management in both preschoolers and elementary to middle school children, reported Dahlquist, yielded promising results in increasing pain tolerance “with potentially significant future clinical applications for more effective pain reduction techniques for youth with chronic and acute pain. However, more research is needed to know for certain if there is real world VRD application in such pain-generating procedures as cleansing wounds, cancer treatment, immunization, injections, and burn care.”
VRD’s impact on pain tolerance levels varied by children’s ages, indicating that age may influence how effective video game interaction will be. “We must better understand at what ages VRD provides the greatest benefit in moderating acute pain and at what age, if any, that it can be too much or be limiting.”
In one study using video helmets for virtual environment interactivity, the special equipment had little positive impact with children aged 6 to 10, but for those over 10 years of age, “there was a much longer tolerance of the pain of the cold water exposure, leading us to further study to determine what aspect or aspects of cognitive development and neurological function account for this difference among youth.
— Source: American Pain Society