Electronic Games As Pain Distraction
The next time you are searching your bathroom cabinet for some pain killers, may want to consider playing a video game first. It is very common to say, “Take two aspirin, and call me in the morning.” Well, what if the doctor said, “Go and play some video games”? I’m sure the first thing you would consider doing is to consult another doctor. But, despite many improvements on pain medicines in recent years, effective pain management still remains a challenge for many patients and health care professionals. This then, inspired techniques to control pain without the use of drugs. And although, many of these methods are effective and can help reduce the effect of drug abuse, addiction, the effect of chemicals, etc. that might come with the use of pain relief drugs, yet, not all of them fit perfectly for everyone. The TENS Therapy for example, isn’t meant for everyone experiencing back pain, and you will need to talk to your physician on whether you can use it or not.
Now, research has shown that human psychology plays an important role in how we experience chronic and acute pain, and that painful sensations can be altered and manipulated by what we feel and think.
Some approaches of psychology to pain relief are looking increasingly promising and helpful, thanks to the rapid advances of technology. Video games are showing promise in dealing with acute pain, seemingly by helping us not to pay attention to the pain and focus on other things. Now, a recent study has shed some light on how this approach works and how it could be improved and used in future.
Using technical data, obtains from video game playing patient to treat and access pain could allow clinicians replace the existing methods and techniques that experts believed were trial and error. The new therapy relies on the doctors and patients to gauge pain by observations and feelings. The video games draw on techniques from yoga and physical therapy to distract sufferers from their pain, however, also to increase their range of strength and motion. Experts and doctors will be able to use initial measurements to examine a baseline range of motions that every patient can perform in pain, by looking at the changes in movement of the patient over time. In this way, doctors can determine whether or not a therapy is working.
The advancement in computer graphics, especially in the gaming world, has meant that some expensive technologies are becoming increasingly accessible. For instance, virtual reality systems are initiating to be developed for the use by patients during the painful procedures, like dental procedures. The underlying idea is that by placing oneself in this virtual world of video games, we are distracted from the pain and hurting experience. The research is still going on to further dig out the impact of this technique.
What exactly lowers that pain when we are playing these video games? Is it mainly the visual graphics and images, the sound and audio or simply the activity of pressing buttons? This questions have been addressed by a study conducted by Royal Society Open Science, by examining the effects of auditory and visual sensory information to pain. The researcher let 27 healthy volunteers immerse their hands in icy water, to the point where they could not tolerate the pain, while simultaneously playing a video game. The first volunteer racing game, set in a futuristic space, was presented through a head mounted display with no sounds.
The researchers here looked as if the pain tolerance levels were affected by the different amounts of sensory inputs. This research includes, none at all, only the music from the game, only the visuals of the game, and both music and visuals together. The results were according to the expectations. The study found that the highest level of tolerance was observed when the music and visuals of the video game was combined. The other observations showed that the tolerance level also increased when only the images were showing or only the music was open.
The researchers argue that music/sound of the video game may enhance the effects of the distraction. They further suggested that to access the level of more relief from pain, it may be worth exploring if different types of sounds play a role in pain relief. It was concluded that it may increase the efficacy of the therapy if it is possible to add more sensory interactions, like touch and smell to the gaming experience.
Many experts are of the view that it is not right to draw too many conclusions from a small, lab based study on the individual’s health. After all, the experiment was performed in a controlled environment, where the pain experienced by the volunteers was mild and tolerable than the pain experienced by the actual patients in the real life. But, the outcome of the study was indeed encouraging and developing that video games can be used to lessen the pain of the patients by manipulating different sensory inputs.
The gaming systems assist in pain relief by creating motion centered and an interactive environment. Just getting up and moving around may help the patient feel better, and the new system consoles promote the movement through the interaction of the game. Another feasible option encourages the exercise while also distracting the senses of the patient, a combination of two pain relieving factors. Experts are holding a strong view now that movement-based therapies and techniques, such as tai chi, yoga and other form of exercises are effective treatments for such chronic pains. These forms of exercises increase balance and core strength, taking away stiffness in joints and other relieving pain.
There are many pain relief centers working on the same technique. According to Journal Burns, child burn victims experience a lot of increase in their range of motion after playing play station, Xbox and other video games. Doctors and therapists are using video game technology for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes. The goal would be that people eventually adopt this technique like they follow the doctor’s medication prescription. Ideally, they could play a video game at home, with their play monitored by a doctor or a therapist, who can recommend games according the therapy needed.
Where the video games are helping in reducing the pain, the experts also show concerns about its side effects. We know video games don’t have negative side effects of pain medications. But, at the same time they can be addicting. The addiction to video games can pose certain health risks to the players. The patients might get help in relieving their pain, but possibly end up in addiction to video games. Therefore, the therapy should be undertaken under the supervision of expert therapists.
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