STUDY OBJECTIVE: Both virtual reality (VR) and exercise are recognized for their analgesic and anxiolytic properties. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the ability of VR-facilitated exercise to modulate pain.DESIGN: Within-subject cross-over clinical trial.SETTING: The Stanford Chariot Program conducted this study at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford (LCPHS).PATIENTS: Healthy participants meeting inclusion criteria were recruited by volunteer solicitation from LCPHS.INTERVENTIONS: Participants were randomized by hand dominance and subjected to a standardized cold pressor test with no VR or exercise. After a 5-min wash-out period, participants repeated the test on their other hand while experiencing a VR-facilitated exercise condition. Pain sensitivity, pain tolerance, and sympathetic activation data were collected during both conditions.MEASUREMENTS: Pain sensitivity was scored 0-10 and collected every 30s. Pain tolerance was recorded as the duration a participant could endure the painful stimuli. Sympathetic activation was measured by skin conductance response density (SCRD) and recorded in 30s epochs by a biosensor. In all analyses, data were nested by participant.MAIN RESULTS: Forty-one participants completed both interventions. Pain sensitivity was reduced in the VR-facilitated exercise condition (p<0.0001). There was no difference in pain tolerance between conditions. While both conditions resulted in an increase in sympathetic activity, SCRD was higher at all time points in the VR-facilitated exercise condition.CONCLUSIONS: The reduction in pain sensitivity indicates VR-facilitated exercise results in improved pain perception. VR-facilitated exercise may be especially useful for patients with chronic pain or other conditions requiring physical therapy, where pain may be exacerbated by exercise.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jclinane.2023.111257
View details for PubMedID 37708601