Chronic pain is a significant health issue affecting millions of Canadians daily. VR environments are hypothesized to reduce pain via non-pharmacologic distractive mechanisms.
An exploratory study undertaken in 2016 used a case series to examine the value of VR as an adjunctive therapy for chronic pain patients in their own homes. Ten chronic pain patients received VR therapy for 30 minutes on alternate days for 1 month. Several VR experiences were used and pre and post-exposure (immediately afterwards, at 3 hrs, 24 hrs, and weekly) pain and functional assessment was undertaken using established pain assessment tools.
Half of the patients reported that pain was reduced during the VR experience. VR was not associated with any serious adverse events, although 60% of patients reported some mild cyber-sickness. This study has provided the groundwork for a follow up Randomized Controlled Trial in 2017 with cancer patients with chronic pain.