Pain is an unpleasant sensory experience, but from the point of view of physiology it plays an important warning role, so we need it. However, whenever pain becomes chronic and causes suffering that impairs normal functioning, it becomes pathological, and one should look for a way to stop it. Pain can be cured, and more than that, we can escape it. Thanks to Virtual Reality, we can effectively separate ourselves from the pain experience, and in the case of chronic pain, we can gain strength in coping with this annoying phenomenon.
Characteristics of pain
Pain is a psychosomatic phenomenon, a subjective experience and it is experienced individually by a person. The pain can be divided into acute and chronic in terms of its duration. Acute pain accompanies trauma, surgery, or acute illness and has a warning function. Chronic pain lasting more than 3 months is a pathological condition, such chronic pain is treated as a disease in itself. Acute but recurrent pain should be treated in the same way. Chronic pain can interfere with human functioning, hinder daily activity and become a cause of physical disability. Pain is an experience that is affected by psychological factors. Some factors may affect the level of pain tolerance. The pain tolerance threshold is lowered by:
- presence of anxiety,
- symptoms of depression,
- reduced well-being,
- lack of support from loved ones,
- lack of faith in the success of the therapy,
- general poor health and depletion.
Persistent pain, exceeding the individual possibility of its abolition, disturbs the mental balance. The most common psychological response to chronic pain is depression, which, in turn, intensifies pain sensations. It is estimated that depression affects up to 70% of people suffering from pain. Depression can be the result of experiencing chronic pain, while pain can be an axial symptom of masked depression, especially in people without any pathological changes in the body. There is talk of a painful mask of depression.
As long as we know the source of pain, treatment begins with removing the cause, which is not always possible, and it does not always bring relief. Pain therapy, although involving different methods, is largely based on pharmacological agents. When pharmacotherapy turns out to be insufficient, non-pharmacological methods come in handy. Treating chronic pain is a challenge because it is significantly more difficult than managing acute pain. The classic treatment is the use of pharmacological painkillers. In many cases, this process to be an effective method, but with a risk of side effects. In the treatment of chronic pain, it is very important to raise the threshold of its sensation. This can be done by showing understanding to the patient, securing their well-being, eliminating anxiety and depressive symptoms. Here, psychological interventions as well as modern methods of pain management with use of VR will work perfectly.
Escape from pain
Among the ways of combating pain are non-pharmacological methods based on distraction from pain. It is a well-known and effective method of pain reduction. Virtual Reality is an ideal medium that, like no other, can distract from unpleasant pain sensations. The VR experience is connected with the concept of escapism, i.e. escape and detachment from reality. Escape from unpleasant pain allows us to face the difficulties resulting from the disease process. A patient freed from annoying pain ceases to avoid physical activity, participates in rehabilitation and is able to fight with commitment to their health. Today, it is known that VR works perfectly in the treatment of transient pain. Patients undergoing VR stop focusing on painful sensations, as their mind is involved in a virtual experience.
We can also resort to VR in case of chronic pain, but the experience built on this technology must offer the patient something more than just a temporary cut-off from the unpleasant pain sensations that will still be present after they take off the VR goggles. The virtual world must be a safe haven where a patient suffering from chronic pain will be able to gain mental strength to better cope with everyday pain.
VR TierOne as analgesic
There is a VR TierOne medical device on the market that can be helpful in the treatment of chronic pain. VR TierOne therapy was created to support the treatment of depression, anxiety and stress. As these unfavourable mental states intensify pain sensations, virtual therapy will also work as a support in the treatment of pain. By eliminating depressive-anxiety symptoms and reducing tension with VR TierOne therapy sessions, you can raise the pain tolerance threshold and bring relief to the patient. During the VR TierOne therapy, the patients are able to transform their negative views of their own health situation. This is important because thinking about pain in a catastrophic way is conducive to its chronicisation. Temporarily moving away from chronic pain to digitally created reality strengthens the patient’s psyche, which makes the pain less felt. With the help of a virtual therapist, the patient’s mood improve and the patient returns to reality with a sense of greater control over the psychophysical experience of pain. So can we escape from chronic pain? Yes, the absorbing virtual experience renders it possible.