How can Virtual Reality change pain?

How can Virtual Reality change pain?

4 min. reading time


Louis Zantema

5 January 2020

Louis is a GZ-Psychologist with a great passion for gaming. For him, a game training that offers therapy is the most valuable thing you can develop: especially for pain complaints, which are on the interesting intersection of body and mind. His aim is to make himself dispensable as a therapist.

Maybe you know virtual reality glasses. The often large glasses that you put on to suddenly be in a 'different digital world'. In recent years a lot of research has been done on how virtual reality can work in case of pain.

About pain

Let's go back to pain first: There is an alarm system in our brains. The moment the alarm goes off, you feel pain. In case of chronic pain, the alarm goes off too often, and too quickly. Often without good reason. Whether and how much pain you feel depends on many things:

  • How you feel about yourself
  • Previous experiences with pain
  • Thoughts you have about pain and the cause
  • Where your attention is at that moment
  • Construction to feel pain faster
  • And much more...

How VR affects your brain

The interesting thing is: Virtual reality can affect many of these things. Attention can be adjusted, you can relax in virtual reality and even convince the alarm centre that there is less danger! The alarm system is in some ways not so 'smart', and believes almost everything it sees. When you can work on your own pain in virtual reality, the pain alarm system can really adapt itself.

What effect can that have? From my perspective, about ten times the effect of studying from a good textbook. Being able to hear, feel, see and really experience the things you want to learn, having an emotional impact is the new way of learning not only with your mind, but also your heart in much more effective ways.


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