ULSAN, Feb. 7 (Korea Bizwire) — A South Korean research team has developed a new medical technology combining virtual reality and mirror therapy that can help alleviate pain for patients.
According to Ulsan University on Wednesday, the research team led by professors Hwang Chang-ho and Koo Kyo-in has developed a new technology dubbed ‘enhanced reality’ after that offered scores of patients who received knee joint operations pain relief of more than three weeks.
In the past, virtual reality-based treatment only saw the effect of pain relief last for just a few minutes. However, the new enhanced reality treatment can have a long-term pain relief effect, which could be a new answer to pain killers controversial for their side effects.
Patients who receive knee joint operations often undergo rehabilitation, which can be extremely painful, until the artificial joints settle into place.
However, the researchers saw patients experiencing less pain after watching videos depicting their new knee joints moving smoothly without any signs of discomfort.
During the two-week study, the researchers discovered that showing a video depicting images of improved knee movements to patients after surgery can trick the brain into thinking that their knee joints have recovered, similar to a placebo effect.
Patients reported experiencing less pain even three weeks after the enhanced reality treatment, according to a follow-up survey with the participants.
The researchers explain the new treatment method combines mirror therapy, related to mirror neurons , and virtual reality, which stimulates the sensitive parts of the human brain, both of which contribute to influencing patients to feel less pain.
The enhanced reality treatment method is better than those based on augmented reality, as the former can have a direct psychological impact on the brain, the researchers argued.
“With real time videos showing enhanced body parts, it is possible to alleviate not only pain from patients, but the technology can also be used in a wide range of areas, such as helping acquire physical skills that take time, like playing golf or playing the violin,” a source close to the research team said.
The findings were published in the online version of Scientific Reports, which is the sister magazine of international academic journal Nature.