#180: Pain Management with Virtual Reality by DeepStream VR

howard-roseVirtual Reality can make you feel like you’re in another world, and it turns out that this can have quite a therapeutic effect for people experiencing chronic pain. VR pain management has been researched in clinical studies for over a decade, and it’s been shown that VR can help significantly reduce pain, relieve stress, and build resilience.

Howard Rose has been working in VR for over 20 years, and his company DeepStream VR is focusing on building VR applications for the healthcare market. They’re focusing on pain management applications for burn victims, wound care, deep tissue injections, and a number of other different conditions that require hospitalization.

They’re able to modulate the VR experience using biofeedback sensors like heart rate monitors and galvanic skin response in order to maximize the amount of pain relief that you need. They create a pain profile, and then use the feedback as inputs to help maximize the focus and level of immersion. They’ve worked on classic VR experiences for pain management including SnowWorld VR, and they’re also creating a new pain management experience called Cool with more interaction as well as a labor and delivery VR application. Some crucial elements of creating a compelling and effective pain management VR experience include having a wide field-of-view above 60 degrees, visual flow, and engaging interaction. They also found that feeling vection and motion down a river created a more compelling experience.

VR pain management compares favorably to other techniques, and does especially well when paired together with opioids. Because pain medicine can be so effective, then there can develop an over-reliance and subsequent addiction issues. However, if VR is provided an option, then it can engage and develop a resilience in patients in a way that distracts them from the pain, but also prevents them from relying too heavily on their morphine drip.

Howard also talks about some of his lessons learned for making grounded VR experiences, as well as some of his experiences with the River Accelerator program.

Finally, DeepStream VR is ultimately trying to go beyond the normal health consumption model to a model that empowers people to become a health producer by using our innate abilities to heal ourselves. He sees that VR can help people become more independent, and to more easily integrate wellness into our lives in a way that’s more accessible and affordable. DeepStream VR is doing this by creating the VR experiences and pioneering the approaches that enable this type of paradigm shift.

Here’s a TEDMED talk by Howard Rose from September 2014.

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