Polar Virtual Reality Environment Eases Chronic Pain

Research supports the use of virtual reality to ease chronic pain and associated conditions, but data are lacking on the analgesic mechanisms during sensitized pain sites. In this study, published in Pain Reports, researchers evaluated how an immersive polar virtual reality environment impacted capsaicin-induced ongoing pain and secondary hyperalgesia, as well as whether the level of analgesia correlated with baseline conditioned pain modulation responses. This trial included 19 patients with baseline conditioned pain modulation and electrical pain perception thresholds that were calculated prior to topical application of capsaicin cream. A visual analog scale rating was implemented to record an ongoing pain state. Secondary hyperalgesia was measured by electrical pain perception thresholds. Patients who responded to capsaicin (n=15) received either a passive polar virtual reality environment or sham virtual reality (i.e., 2D monitor screen). The virtual reality patients presented a transient reduction in ongoing pain and an increase in electrical pain perception thresholds. Baseline conditioned pain modulation was significantly associated with virtual reality-induced changes in secondary hyperalgesia but not in ongoing pain perception. Virtual reality-induced changes in pain perception were not associated with virtual reality-induced changes in secondary hyperalgesia. The study authors concluded that virtual reality can be used to reduce the perception of capsaicin-induced ongoing pain and secondary hyperalgesia, adding that conditioned pain modulation could be a useful identification tool to determine which patients would be most responsive to virtual reality therapy.

Read more