Virtual Reality Helps Reduce Pain, Research Reveals

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. eradicate / ɪˈræd ɪˌkeɪt / (v) – to eliminate

    Watching funny movies can help eradicate depression.

  2. fixated / fɪkˈseɪtɪd / (adj) – being focused on a certain thing

    Doctors give candies to child patients during injections so they won’t become fixated on the pain.

  3. distressing / dɪˈstrɛs ɪŋ / (adj) – causing discomfort

    I find medical checkups distressing.

  4. in good spirits / ɪn gʊd ˈspɪr ɪts / (idiom) – to have positive feelings

    The patient was in good spirits after seeing her family.

  5. overcome / ˌoʊ vərˈkʌm / (v) – to succeed against a difficult situation

    I finally overcame my fear of heights.


Read the text below.

Virtual reality (VR) helps lessen pain experienced by patients, research says. VR is a computer technology that creates an artificial environment using specialized electronic devices.

A research by experts from Princeton University reviewed six small-scale studies about the effects of VR games on patients suffering from pain. Findings suggest that treatments integrated with VR eradicated the patients’ pain through distraction.

Similarly, another research found that VR programs the mind to feel less pain through a phenomenon called the “spotlight attention theory.” Because the human mind’s capacity to store information is limited, only a certain amount of new information can be processed at a particular instance. As a result, the mind becomes fixated on a specific phenomenon while ignoring others. Therefore, when patients are exposed to VR, they focus only on the experience that VR provides rather than the pain.

Jeffrey Gold, director of the Pediatric Pain Management Clinic at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, has also incorporated virtual reality when dealing with child patients during distressing medical procedures such as blood draws. While undergoing these medical procedures, patients are asked to wear a VR headset and play a game. According to Gold, child patients experiencing VR tend to be more at ease and in good spirits.

However, researchers warned that exposure to VR has side effects such as dizzy spells and nausea.

Apart from reducing pain, VR is also used to treat patients with phobias, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Patients with phobias and anxiety are treated with exposure therapy, which uses VR to create a regulated setting where patients can overcome their fears or the root cause of their anxiety.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think virtual reality as a medical treatment can be adopted in your country? Why or why not?
• Would you recommend this medical innovation to someone who needs pain relief? Discuss.

Discussion B

• Despite the technological advancements that people are enjoying now, why do you think some diseases remain untreatable? Explain.
• Do you think that time will come when all known diseases will be treatable? Why or why not?