In collaboration with Keck School of Medicine

Virtual Reality May Help With Chronic Pain Management

VR headset

We know that millions of people love virtual reality, including being able to play games or take a virtual ride on a roller coaster. In recent years, technology has been explored for helping people who are experiencing pain. Several research studies have shown that it may help people experiencing acute pain, and now it’s being looked at for its promising results regarding assisting with chronic pain management.

In the January 2023 issue of the journal Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences, researchers share information about using virtual reality (VR) for both acute and chronic pain [1]. The technology creates an illusion that distracts them from thinking about the pain, which can be beneficial in helping people with acute pain.

The study explains that using VR for those with chronic pain may make a difference because it can help with the person’s perception of their bodily self, which often suffers when they experience chronic pain. Prior research shows that there may be some additional benefits for those who suffer from chronic pain when they use virtual reality methods as part of their management program.

Like what you’re learning?  Download a brochure for our online, postgraduate pain medicine certificate or master’s degree program in partnership with the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

In November 2021, the Food and Drug Administration approved a prescription-use immersive virtual reality system for adults that helps people with chronic low back pain [2]. The system uses cognitive therapy and other behavioral methods to help with pain reduction. The system uses deep breathing exercises, attention-shifting, deep relaxation, and interoceptive awareness to help people with chronic pain management at home. When tested, the system provided pain reduction in 66% of the participants.

Virtual reality systems are showing promising results in providing people with chronic pain with another tool they can use from home to help manage the condition. The methods typically include tools the person can use, such as meditation, breathing exercises, mindfulness, etc. The immersive technology makes people feel like they are in another world, calms them, and helps them feel that they are in more serene settings.

Considering people like the idea of having more tools they can use from home to help manage chronic pain and that many people like virtual reality options, this could be a great tool. In the near future, more people who have chronic pain may be able to put on a virtual reality headset and transport themselves to a serene environment where they can meditate without distraction and find pain relief and a better quality of life.

Earn an Online Postgraduate Degree in Pain Medicine

Like what you’re learning? Consider enrolling in the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC’s online, competency-based certificate or master’s program in Pain Medicine in partnership with the Keck School of Medicine of USC.


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Posted: February 7, 2023
<a href="" target="_self">Dr. Steven H. Richeimer</a>

Dr. Steven H. Richeimer

Steven Richeimer, M.D. is a renowned specialist on issues related to chronic pain. He is the chief of the Division of Pain Medicine at the University of Southern California. He has written or co-written a large number of scientific articles about pain medicine. He recently published an instructive book and guide for pain patients. Dr. Richeimer has given numerous lectures to medical and lay audiences throughout the U.S.

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