Cancer patients often live with comorbidities including chronic pain, depression, or other associated chronic conditions. The management of chronic pain remains a challenging and complex process involving pharmacologic, physical, occupational, and psychological factors. Typically, pharmaceutical interventions such as acetaminophen and NSAIDs, as well as opioids, are used to enhance comfort in cancer-related chronic pain. But this increases the chances of drug addiction and risks exposure to the side-effects associated with using opioids.
Virtual Reality is recently emerging as a novel way for pain management. The purpose of VR technology is to provide users with sense of presence within a simulated environment—they feel like they are there. Cognitive distraction is a common strategy for controlling pain and relies on competing cognitive resources, i.e. attention, to reduce the perception of pain. Immersive VR interventions are being used as powerful distractors that require visual, audio, cognitive, and emotional engagement from the user.
Another approach valued by some patients is mindfulness meditation for chronic pain management. Mindfulness meditation is a psychological technique that requires intentional and non-judgmental awareness of pain and conscious relaxation to support its acceptance and help reduce its impact. Combining mindfulness meditation within a VR intervention may help support acceptance and adherence to the practice while having a positive effect on pain reduction through immersive VR distraction.
In that context, we at SyncVR have designed the SyncVR-Relax & Distract – an application where patients and healthcare staff can experience a wide variety of VR scenarios to reduce pain, anxiety and stress. The VR library contains relaxation exercises, cognitive stimulating games and video’s. It is easy to implement and the application comes with a tablet on which you can spectate what a patient is seeing in the VR-headset.