Exercise Longer With Less Pain Using Virtual Reality

PainRelief.com Interview with:

This is a visual of VR exercise environment during test.

This is a visual of VR exercise environment during test.
Credit Maria Matsangidou

Maria Matsangidou, PhD
School of Engineering and Digital Arts
University of Kent

PainRelief.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The results show that Virtual Reality (VR) technology can influence the perception of task difficulty, endurance performance and pain experienced during exercise. Most importantly, exercising through the use of VR technology revealed a significant decrease in Pain Intensity and Perceived Exertion reports, and a significant increase in Time to Exhaustion. This was contrary to conventional non-VR exercise which was found to have a significantly higher Pain Intensity and Perceived Exertion reports, and a significantly lower Time to Exhaustion.

In addition the results show that personal characteristics of internal body awareness, such as Private Body Consciousness, does not influence the efficiency VR has on the time to and the perceived pain and exhaustion. This means that the effectiveness of VR technology on time and the perception of pain and exhaustion could not be influenced by personal characteristics of internal body awareness.

A possible explanation could be that the attention of the participants is shifted from the observation of internal functions onto the virtual room and exercise.

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: That VR provides a new form of reality, where the individual’s is able to exercise for longer with less pain and effort, and by extension this can increase physical activity. One can imagine how beneficial it would be for specific populations, such as athletes or individuals who are reluctant to engage in physical activity, as well as clinical populations where their recovery can be enhanced through physical physiotherapy.

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Future research may investigate the conditions under which Private Body Consciousness may influence immersion and potentially the effectiveness of VR. For example, more research is needed to determine whether the virtual environments representing natural and photorealistic environments are more or less effective than ones presented in cartoonish form.  Furthermore, it would be worthwhile adopting a mixed-methods approach (questionnaire and interview) in order to address user preferences for the design of VR environments.  Finally,  this  study utilized participants who  were  both  active  and  inactive,  therefore  future  work  should  seek  to replicate  this  study  with  a  group  of  sedentary  participants,  as  this  is  where  the  greatest potential for positive impact on behavior may be. 

No disclosures 

Citation:

Maria Matsangidou, Chee Siang Ang, Alexis R. Mauger, Jittrapol Intarasirisawat, Boris Otkhmezuri, Marios N. Avraamides. Is your virtual self as sensational as your real? Virtual Reality: The effect of body consciousness on the experience of exercise sensations. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2018.07.004

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Virtual Reality for Pain Relief: Is It More Than Just Distraction?

Dr. Anita Gupta of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in New Jersey, has written in the journal Pain Medicine that “in addition to distraction, there are novel mechanisms for VR treatment in pain, such as producing neurophysiologic changes related to conditioning and exposure therapies.”

https://www.painweek.org/news_posts/virtual-reality-and-pain-response-in-patients-not-just-a-distraction.html