Mind Over Pain and Virtual Reality

June 10th, 2012 by Dr. Keith Nemec

Virtual reality is helping to ease the pain associated with serious conditions. Dr. Hunter Hoffman, a pain expert at the University of Washington, Seattle, said virtual reality devices have worked wonders for patients recovering from severe burns.

“Usually, during procedures they’re just thinking about their pain and how much it hurts. In wound care, they focus on how long it’s going to take or what the nurse is going to do next,” he said.

Hoffmann recently completed a study of burn patients using headsets that allowed them to enter into a kind of computer-generated fantasyland as they underwent painful wound care.

“We found very dramatic reductions in pain-related brain activity when they were in virtual reality,” compared to when they were not, Hoffmann said, with patients generally enthusiastic about the relief virtual reality provides.

He believes the devices distract brain activity away from neurological pain centers. “That’s what’s making it work so well — it’s grabbing attention, making it go to another place,” he said.

The spirits of cancer patients undergoing stressful chemotherapy may also get a lift from video-generated virtual worlds.

“We’ve done series of three studies so far — one with adolescents, one with younger women with breast cancer, and one with older women with breast cancer,” said Susan Schneider, a specialist in cancer care at Duke University Medical School.

Her team found the use of video headsets seems to take patient’s minds off the fear and anxiety surrounding chemotherapy, allowing them to escape for a while from the reality of cancer care.

“Some folks relax because it’s taking their mind off things,” Schneider said. “We see their blood pressure dropping, they appear to have calmer breathing.

For some, she said, chemotherapy changes from something that’s dreaded to something that’s almost enjoyable.
-University of Washington, Seattle; Duke University Medical School, Durham, N.C.

Dr. Keith & Laurie Nemec comments on Mind Over Pain and Virtual Reality:

What these studies show are that if you take your mind off any painful or unpleasant experience and put it on a pleasurable experience, the pain will lessen, the unpleasantness does seem to be unpleasant.

Let us take this to a deeper level. All top athletes can play in pain and perform at unbelievably high levels even when in pain or ill. How do they do this? They focus on the moment and the moment only. When they are so fully in the moment (this is called in sports “being in the zone”), even pain and sickness appears to leave because they are so absorbed into the moment that they are not at all in the past or the future. To be in the past would think “I don’t know if I can do this, last time I felt like this I was in bed for 3 days” or to be in the future would think “What if this pain doesn’t subside, I will not be able to tolerate it, I will not be able to function”. These top athletes have learned an important key in life—to live life fully you must live fully in the moment.

God’s name is I AM, not I was or I will be. When you live fully in the moment, you are living fully in His eternal, infinite, I AM presence. In this presence “all things are possible.”

So stay in the moment, live in the moment. There is no better place to be.

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