Virtual Reality Programs for Pain, Stress and Depression
When most people think of virtual reality, they think of playing video games. However, VR is far more than just a gaming interface. It can be used for training medical professionals and pilots. It can also be used to treat depression, chronic pain and even reduce stress.
Virtual Reality for Pain Relief
Chronic pain refers to any type of pain that lasts for more than three months. Many diseases can cause this type of ongoing pain, and if it’s not possible to treat it with painkillers, it may be that you need something different. Researchers have shown that patients can use virtual reality programs to help block pain signals from being processed by the brain. When a patient with chronic pain participates in a program that uses virtual reality for pain, their levels of pain and distress dropped drastically.
The idea is that the extra stimuli from the immersive experience of VR will prevent the bring from receiving the pain signals that continuously bombard it. The result is that you keep your mind occupied, relax and lower pain levels.
Virtual reality isn’t just for chronic pain, however. It’s also been successfully used during unpleasant medical procedures to help reduce stress, anxiety and pain levels.
Virtual Reality for Stress Relief
Virtual reality isn’t just for easing pain. Almost 50 percent of Americans say that stress has negatively affected their lives, including their work performance and their family. Ongoing stress can cause adrenal burnout, as well as health issues that can affect mental health even further. Eliminating stress is easier said than done, but virtual reality can help here as well.
Peaceful environments, combined with calming music and sounds, can help anyone relax. Some virtual reality programs provided guided meditation to help users breathe better and reduce their stress and anxiety levels. Often, these help with the pain stimuli by providing plenty of other things for the brain to focus on. Since stress and pain are so closely intertwined, lowering pain levels can also help reduce stress.
Virtual Reality for Depression
Depression and chronic pain are deeply linked, with around 85 percent of those dealing with chronic pain also suffering from severe depression. However, cognitive-behavioral therapy has been proven to work very well with those who suffer from depression, and it has now been worked into VR programs for this specific reason.
There aren’t a lot of options for treating depression with virtual reality, since most programs have been designed to help with stress or phobias instead. However, many VR games have been shown to help those with depression and may aid in improving depression. This is particularly true when depression has been linked to chronic pain. If you can treat the pain with VR, then you can eliminate the main reason for the depression.
There are still many people working on creating programs for those suffering from depression, but it may take some time. It’s a more complex scenario than simply calming those who are anxious.
Which VR Programs Works Best?
While virtual reality is quite useful any way you use it, there are specific programs that are meant for use when someone has chronic pain or is suffering from loss. Here are a few of the more popular options.
BehaVR is a VR program that is based on Balance, a program that helps people regulate their emotions and improve their stress levels. The program uses a cloud platform to manage the patient’s experience and allows them to visit a beach, forest or another location and feel as if they are there. It’s designed to help people relax and feel calmer.
Cynergi VR provides a range of VR programs meant to aid patients with everything from substance abuse to anxiety and chronic pain. These programs give the user a fully immersive experience with sound, visuals and guided meditation to help control their body and brain.
XR Health is another option that provides virtual reality telehealth kits designed specifically to help with pain. After a brief evaluation, the company provides a pre-loaded VR set that targets the patient’s specific needs. There are programs to ease pain, help with stress or anxiety, deal with the loss of memory and even for physical therapy.
While these programs are specifically meant for medical therapy use, many meditation programs may be helpful simply by pulling the user’s attention away from distressing things and occupying their mind.
Should VR Become a Medical Technique?
There’s no doubt that the medical use of virtual reality has had some excellent results and it’s becoming more common in hospitals or clinics. In most cases, VR is used in a combination with medication to get the best results. Where medications may not be enough to resolve the issue completely, it’s often possible to enhance the results with virtual reality.
With such impressive results from using virtual reality for pain and other issues, it seems like it would be foolish not to continue using it. Some medical clinics and treatment centers have already begun to make use of the technology, so it’s quite likely we’ll see even more VR in the near future.