Virtual Reality is seen as a way to submerse yourself into another “world”. Maybe as a way to disconnect from your own existence and temporarily become part of another. Virtual reality, however, is being used to treat pain. There are several studies reviewing this theory in both the United States and Canada, but the bottom line is showing that virtual reality is more effective at relieving pain than something like morphine. If this turns out to actually be the case, this is a huge breakthrough in my opinion. The question I have is how will it be used and by whom? Will I be referred to someone specializing in VR in order to treat the pain? Or can it be self-managed?
Regardless of what the answer is, I can only see the benefits of this. With more and more people being prescribed medication to kill the pain, this seems like an amazing alternative. As I’m not a medical professional myself, I am going to avoid getting into a lot of detail around how or why this works. But it seems like it provides a distraction to the patient during those pain periods. Researchers developed an environmental therapy known as SnowWorld to help patients who have been burned during skin grafting treatments. What is interesting to me, is how we can trick our minds into believing that we are somewhere else, in order to minimize the pain. How can this be possible?
I also think this is an amazing idea because it will lessen the number of people who get addicted to pain killers. I was once prescribed a large amount of pain killers prior to surgery where there was nothing that could be done for me, except to manage pain. While in the hospital, I was prescribed an unlimited amount of morphine. Which, in my case barely numbed the pain. So this is very interesting to me. I’m also a huge advocate of using technology as a way to solve health and social problems. There are so many possibilities when it comes to technology that there has to be a way to have it intersect with other parts of our lives. Technology often makes our lives easier, and more interesting, but I think it should also make our lives better. And this is just the beginning.
VR has also been used to treat phobias and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I wonder though, if it would have the reverse effect in treating something like depression? Again, I’m not a medical professional, but VR takes you out of your own space. So maybe for a short time, your depression would be lessened, but I can’t see it being beneficial when you’re coming back out of it. While this maybe isn’t the best analogy, but think about the last vacation you went on. Think about when you returned home on Sunday and how you dreaded going to the office on Monday. Or think about how you felt when you woke up on Monday, and could barely get out of bed. I realize that it’s not virtual reality, but it’s an altered state of your own. And I can imagine that would be amplified from a depression perspective.
As I mentioned, I love seeing technology making our lives better. Especially from a health perspective. I would love to see further studies on this and maybe other ways it can be used. VR is becoming more widely used from a recreational perspective. So I can only imagine what this might do to combat mental health disabilities, or even pain management. Which is all extremely positive in my opinion.