Integrative medicine compliments traditional therapies and plays a vital role in treating diseases and disorders. It can encompass the practice of meditation, including visual imagery and mindfulness, acupuncture, ayurveda, yoga, and virtual reality therapeutics. Virtual Reality is proving to be an effective aid in rehabilitation and treatment of many neurological disorders, diseases, pain management, and mental health. Recent advancements in VR immersive therapeutics are proving this integrative therapy has the potential to create more impactful visual experiences, lowers medical costs, reduces stress and fear, decreases trauma, and is improving medical outcomes. In 2021, the FDA authorized marketing of a virtual reality system for chronic pain reduction, developed by AppliedVR, EaseVRx became the first virtual reality-based digital therapeutic for pain relief.
Recently, Intervoke was in a meeting and had the pleasure of hearing about how exciting their VR game, “Battle MS” is and how it is relevant in VR treatment and therapy. Battle MS is a game that was developed in a retro style to provide a stimulating way for the user to learn and experience the method of disease in multiple sclerosis on a cellular level. It is an educational VR game focused on using nanites to fight MS from inside of the body. Battle MS is fictional of course, but imagine seeing your disease in an immersive environment and watching your treatment unfold with stunning visuals and details. These programs are now being referred to as “virtual therapeutics” or “therapeutic VR”, and it is only a matter of time before we see all healthcare professionals with a VR room.
Providers are now prescribing visits to a VR world to ease pain and anxiety, treat depression, or to simply explain complex medical procedures and diseases for patient education. The user will experience an immersive environment that is specifically developed for their treatment, procedure or learning about their disease. Therapeutic VR is rapidly evolving and some of the current uses include medical procedure anxiety, which offers the patient a chance to escape during painful or stressful procedures. Patients undergoing long treatments, such as chemo, can try on a VR headset and immerse themselves into a new environment, like the beach, easing stress and anxiety. A surgical patient can wear a headset while undergoing brain surgery and see 3D images of their own brain and exactly how the procedure is being performed while in surgery.
There are so many specialized apps for VR therapy including meditation for anxiety, relieving chronic pain, Alzheimer’s intervention, and even treating stroke victims, resulting in recovered movement from strengthening neural pathways through movement simulation inside of VR. With all of these virtual therapeutics on the horizon, VR is now a part of integrative medicine and is available in many hospitals including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, University of Southern California, Children’s Hospital Colorado, and Stanford Children’s Health.
Integrative medicine has a powerful new resource in technology and it’s only going to get better! The potential of immersive technologies in healthcare is improving the lives of patients and is becoming an essential part of medical treatment plans. For more information on virtual therapeutics, and to find VR therapy apps, please visit the Cedars-Sinai Virtual Medicine page https://virtualmedicine.org/favorite_vr.