It’s early research, but a few other studies of chronic pain have found similar results. Earlier this year, Diane Gromala of the Pain Studies Lab at Simon Fraser University, Canada, and her colleagues reported on a VR game called Cryoslide – inspired by SnowWorld – which involves sliding through a snowy landscape and icy cave while throwing snowballs at fantasy creatures. When chronic pain patients played it for ten minutes, their pain reduced significantly compared to those asked to use other distraction strategies such as meditating, reading or playing games on a phone. Elsewhere, Brenda Wiederhold and colleagues at the Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego found that chronic pain patients immersed in virtual scenes such as forests, beaches and mountains reported significantly reduced pain compared to baseline. They also had a reduced heart rate and raised skin temperature, suggesting that they were more relaxed.
Jo Marchant in Quartz.