The short-term effects of head-mounted virtual-reality on neuropathic pain intensity in people with spinal cord injury pain

a randomised cross-over pilot study

Philip D. Austin*, Ashley Craig, James W. Middleton, Yvonne Tran, Daniel S. J. Costa, Paul J. Wrigley, Philip J. Siddall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Study design: Within-subject, randomised cross-over trial. Objectives: To determine whether a commercially available 3D head-mounted (HMD) virtual reality (VR) device results in significant reductions in neuropathic pain compared to using a 2D screen device in people with spinal cord injury (SCI). Setting: Greenwich Hospital, Sydney, Australia. Methods: Sixteen men with established SCI and chronic neuropathic pain participated in a single-session randomised cross-over trial. We compared the effects of 3D HMD VR and a 2D screen application on SCI neuropathic pain intensity and levels of perceived presence. Results: Participants reported significantly lower pain intensity after 3D HMD VR compared to 2D screen application (1.9 ± SD 1.8 versus 3.4 ± SD 1.6, mean 95% CI: 1.5, P < 0.0001). Participants reported significantly higher perceived levels of presence with the 3D HMD VR compared to 2D screen of (49.6 ± SD 8.9 versus 32.8 ± SD 11.1, mean 95% CI: 16.6, P < 0.0001). Increased perceived presence was associated with significantly lower pain intensity regardless of randomised sequencing of the two conditions (mean 95% CI: 0.06, P = 0.005). Effect size for pain reduction using 3D HMD VR was 0.80. Conclusions: We suggest that 3D HMD VR may provide neuropathic pain relief for people with SCI. Given the lack of cybersickness and ease of access, we propose that immersive VR could be a helpful adjunct to current pharmacotherapy. Further research is required to show that VR can be effective for more long-term reductions in SCI pain.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalSpinal Cord
Early online date19 Oct 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Oct 2020

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