OBJECTIVE: The use of virtual reality (VR) for pain has numerous studies showing effectiveness. However, there has been limited study of its use for chronic pain. METHODOLGY: This pilot study (N=10) investigated the impact of repeated sessions of a VR application for chronic pain on ten subjects. Impact on pain as well as on psychological variables such as depression, anxiety, catastrophizing, and sense of control over pain was assessed. Subjects underwent three twenty minute sessions of the VR application Cool! on a weekly basis using an Oculus Rift or Vive. The impact of the sessions on pain was assessed at four intervals and psychological data captured at two intervals. RESULTS: Results indicate that the VR sessions provided significant pain relief in all treatment sessions with an average of a 66% reduction in pain during the VR session and a 45% reduction in pain immediately after the session. A decrease in pain was reported to last an average of 30 hours after the session. There appeared to be limited if any impact of the VR intervention on chronic pain levels across time. There was no significant impact found for the VR intervention on depression, anxiety, catastrophizing and sense of control over pain. CONCLUSION: Implications for the use of VR on chronic pain conditions are discussed. More frequent VR interventions for chronic pain may be needed to impact pain across time. In addition, VR applications might not be used as an interventional-type in-office treatment as done here but perhaps need to have a skill teaching component or be an application available for in-home and more frequent use.
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