Virtually Painless

Will the next pain relief solution come in three-D?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

For many patients, hospitals mean pain. Needle pricks! Broken bones! Tonsillectomies! Physicians want to make each stay more pleasant. But prescribing pain medication can backfire with severe side effects. Doctors need a fast — and safe — patient distraction.

Brennan Spiegel and his team at Cedars-Sinai Hospital wondered: could virtual reality do the trick?

They tried their theory out on two groups of patients. One group strapped on V-R goggles, and was immediately transported to a mystical world. There, they played simple games like shooting balls at oncoming targets. The other group of patients was distracted by watching a video on a large screen.

Two minutes later, both groups were asked about their pain levels. More patients in the V-R group reported feeling their pain melt away. And the AMOUNT of relief was much higher than that of the video-watching group!

The researchers plan on future gaming sessions to test the longer term benefits of V-R for pain reduction.

Till then, ask your doctor if V-R may be right for you! Or at least, Kandy Krush.