Playing games in virtual reality can reduce phantom pain. People that have lost an arm, but have an arm in the virtual world, experience their phantom pain less severely. This was concluded by a study at the technical university of Chalmer in Göteborg.
The research was held among fourteen participants, which held twelve gaming sessions with a virtual arm. After these sessions most participants claimed they would feel less phantom pain. The reduction in duration, frequency and intensity of the pain was almost 50% according to the research publication in The Lancet.
Treatment method with a future
“This is a very encouraging result, especially since some patients had tried four other treatment methods without any success.” researcher Max Ortiz Catalan says to news site NU.nl. “Another thing we saw, was that the pain continued to reduce up to the last session. This suggests that more sessions would allow for even better results.”
Phantom pain can occur with people that have lost a limb. They experience pain in the location of the missing limb. This pain can still be present years after the original trauma, which can have consequences for both the state of mind and quality of life of sufferers. In the applied VR-therapy the patient can see how he, for example, controls a car with two hands. This gives the phantom arm a function, which seems to reduce the amount of pain that is experienced.