VR Therapy Reduces Pain Intensity

A VR therapy program reduces pain intensity up to six months later when compared to a dummy app.

Image credits: Free Range

According to a study published in JMIR, a Virtual Reality therapy program reduces pain intensity up to six months later when compared to a dummy app.

The RelieVRx system, formerly known as EaseVRx, was utilized in the trial, which was sponsored by AppliedVR, to evaluate the long-term efficacy of the treatment for individuals with chronic lower back pain (CLBP). It was a follow-up to previous studies comparing the immersive eight-week program against a 2D mock experience just after treatment.

188 individuals received surveys from the researchers before, during, and after the treatment period of one, two, three, and six months. Six months following the therapy, they discovered that the VR group had a mean percentage change in pain intensity of -31.3%, while the sham group had a mean percentage change of -15.9%. While 25% of the sham group and more than half of the VR group passed the criterion for moderate clinical meaningfulness, respectively, reports MobiHealthNews.

Only 13.2% of the sham group attained substantial clinical meaningfulness, compared to 38% of the RelieVRx cohort. The VR intervention reduced pain-related disruptions to activity, stress, and sleep, according to the study. While there were statistically significant variations in physical function and sleep disturbance between the two groups, these changes lacked clinical significance.

"Combined, the results support the 6-month analgesic efficacy of a fully automated, 8-week, home-based VR program for CLBP," the study's authors wrote. "Recent meta-analyses of VR noted a lack of high-quality efficacy studies for chronic pain, except for those involving physical rehabilitation programs. To our knowledge, our investigations on the extended efficacy of VR are the first involving home-based pain management without physical rehabilitation."

The study's shortcomings, according to the researchers, include the individuals' modest levels of depressive symptoms and its dependence on self-reported results. Despite being double-blind, the majority of participants were able to determine which group they belonged to, indicating that the blinding may not have been effective.

Read more: Partnership for VR Therapeutic Trial

Additionally, the sample consisted primarily of white female participants with some college education, thus others from different backgrounds might not find it useful. Researchers did, however, look into whether individuals' engagement was impacted by their socioeconomic position (SES).

"While our examination of the impact of SES on user engagement is preliminary and may be subject to selection bias, we found equivalent engagement between lower and higher SES individuals with EaseVRx. These data potentially refute a perception that a high-tech digital treatment, such as VR, may be infeasible in lower SES individuals and suggest that digital therapeutics, like EaseVRx, represent an opportunity to reach CLBP patients in historically underserved areas," the researchers wrote.

Sam Draper
January 11, 2024

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