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Can VR Help Ease Chronic Pain?

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A part of the virtual reality experience.

Virtual reality is emerging as an unlikely tool for solving the pain management dilemma.

Credit: Deanne Cheuk

Virtual reality (VR) has emerged as a tool to treat chronic pain and is gaining popularity because it has fewer side-effects than surgery and most drugs, headsets have gone down in price, and graphics have improved to enable a more immersive experience.

In November, AppliedVR received the first authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to market a VR app for chronic lower-back pain, RelieVRx.

The system features what Stanford University's Beth Darnall, AppliedVR's chief science adviser, calls a "breath-fed tree," which provides the user a visual way to "reflect back to the user the changes that are occurring in their own physiology."

Researchers at AppliedVR reported an almost 43% decrease in chronic back pain among study participants who used RelieVRx, versus 25% for a control group.

From The New York Times Magazine
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Abstracts Copyright © 2022 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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