If you’re looking for an excuse to enjoy a little time on the couch playing video games, there’s good news for you. Recent studies have shown that video games (and virtual reality in particular) can assist in the pain treatment process. Not only that, but video games can help reduce the perception of pain and provide an overall increase in pain tolerance.
Take a look at how virtual reality and gaming can offer a nonpharmacological alternative towards treating chronic pain. Because video game pain treatment is now a reality.
Why Is Gaming Effective for Treating Pain?
So much about pain is perception. This is the same reason why you may experience increased pain symptoms at night. At the end of the day, there’s nothing else to distract you. By the same token, as you play games, your focus shifts away from pain. You can forget it exists.
But there’s more to gaming than just simple distraction. And studies are backing it up. You can’t replace gaming with a book or a different activity. Rather, when people are immersed in a virtual world, they report much lower stress and anxiety levels. Burn victims have found particular success. They reportedly experienced decreased pain levels by as much as 50%.
Pain Relief Benefits
Video games not only reduce the perception of pain, but they help relieve it, too. Researchers conducted lab studies on healthy patients. Using fMRI brain scans, they noted a significant decrease in pain-related brain activity during video game therapy. That’s because biochemical changes take place when patients are absorbed in a virtual reality environment.
Targeting All Kinds of Chronic Pain
So far, researchers have used this technology with over 20,000 patients. They’ve included burn victims, patients in emergency rooms, and those in other departments. Overall, an 84% effectiveness rate was found across the board including in oncology, orthopedics, neurology, and delivery rooms. Overall, video game therapy offers significant promise for a huge range of different conditions.
Overcoming Phobias and Other Mental Health Conditions
Immersive video game experiences are also proving helpful for mental health conditions. Psychologists have used them to help patients overcome phobias and anxiety disorders. For people with the fear of heights, spiders, and other common phobias, gaming can help them feel more comfortable in these scnearios. This boosts their confidence.
Likewise, for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the technology creates a calming environment for relieving stress and anxiety. That said, more research is certainly needed.
Are There Any Side Negative Side Effects?
What’s so promising about video game pain treatment is the absence of side effects. Unlike some traditional drug therapies, there’s nothing dangerous about it. Incredibly, people with chronic pain don’t even need much time using game therapy. Researchers found positive results for patients who only had a few sessions of video game therapy per week.
Bringing the Treatment from Hospital into Homes
When doctors refer to video game therapy or VR therapy, they don’t mean playing Candy Crush on your iPhone. The key to success is full immersion through virtual reality. For example, the top game for successful pain relief has been SnowWorld.
In this simple game, users throw snowballs at enemies. As they play, doctors can perform different treatments, including skin grafts for burn victims. In fact, doctors have also noticed a correlation between games centered on cold water and pain relief for burn victims. However, this connection still needs more research before a conclusion can be made.
Fortunately, new technologies have made it easier for patients to take advantage of these benefits at home. You can now find a wide variety of different VR headsets to suit your needs. Many of these options are lightweight, relatively affordable, and comes with diverse games to choose from.
Bottom Line: Video Game Pain Treatment
It may be a little hard to believe, but video games can truly provide pain relief. What’s more, there are no side effects. You have none of the dangers of opiate or other medications. And, they can be really fun. You don’t even need your doctor’s permission to start taking advantage of them. Instead, look into VR options. For people with chronic pain, it’s a great investment not just in fun, but in safe pain relief too. What can be better than that?
Have video games helped you treat chronic pain?
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The Pain Resource team updated this article with new information in November, 2019.