Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

VR Pain Relief

PostedDecember 10, 2017

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LEDE: The rapidly advancing technology of virtual reality may have a role in addressing the opioid crisis.

Randy Atkins: Virtual reality’s immersive power can be used to reduce use of medications in pain management says Hunter Hoffman, a researcher at the University of Washington.

Hunter Hoffman: Pain requires attention, and virtual reality uses up a lot of attention, and there’s just less attention available to process incoming pain signal.

Randy Atkins: So Hoffman is engineering V-R equipment to be more compatible with patient needs…such as goggles that can be held by a robot-like arm instead of a head strap for burn patients and software that discourages head movement while watching. Studies indicate it’s working.

Hunter Hoffman: We’ve been able to show big reductions in pain related brain activity during virtual reality.

Randy Atkins: Hoffman says that pain relief comes from a different brain process than opioids target, and V-R could be used in combination with drugs to minimize dosages and maximize relief. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.