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Patients who suffer from chronic pain may reach for the mouse and keyboard instead of the medicine cabinet

Even though researchers have increased focus on video games for a variety of research projects, very few of the endeavors have yielded astonishing results.

A researcher working at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada claims playing video games could be more effective than using certain drugs when treating chronic pain sufferers.  During controlled experiments, professor Diane Gromala reported that participants who played virtual reality games were more comfortable than participants who on pain medication only.

"Controlling pain through computerized VR and biofeedback meditation therapies has the promise of providing successful, cost-effective alternatives to pain medications," she said in a statement.  

As founder of the university's BioMedia Lab, Gromala believes there is a "real demand" for the technology.  Gromala adds, "As Canada's baby-boomers enter old age, pain management looms as a huge public-health issue."

Patients enrolled in programs to treat chronic pain typically endure physical therapy, counseling sessions and prescription pain-killers. Often, patients reject therapy rather than risk addiction to pain medication.

This isn't the first time game technology has been included for the general health of players.  Although playing games on the Nintendo Wii doesn't technically count towards the one hour of exercise children should receive per day, the console still has become a hit in rehabilitation facilities and nursing homes.

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By xsilver on 1/2/2008 5:51:42 PM , Rating: 1
Did it really have to be computer games?
Why not run it against TV or a good book?
wont that have the same effect?

RE: Alternatives?
By lompocus on 1/2/2008 5:56:30 PM , Rating: 1
Computer games have you in the action. Besides, they're fun.

You're reading a book. "Oh, I wish I could just jump in and kill everyone". Well, you CAN, and see the outcome of it in a video game.

RE: Alternatives?
By xsilver on 1/2/2008 6:35:57 PM , Rating: 2
I dont know If I'd want to jump in and kill everyone when im reading the cat in the hat ;)

However I have wanted to jump in an kill everyone in many "need for speed" games (because they are so crap)
but guess what? you cant! You can only do what the game designers have let you do; much like a hamster and a wheel.

I was just making the point that there are other activities which can have just as good an effect no?

RE: Alternatives?
By amanojaku on 1/2/2008 8:31:25 PM , Rating: 5
I dont know If I'd want to jump in and kill everyone when im reading the cat in the hat ;)

I don't know... Thing 1 and Thing 2 are kind of asking for it...

RE: Alternatives?
By 5c8wc4 on 1/2/2008 6:00:44 PM , Rating: 2
Not only do you use your mind but your partially use your body in a eye hand cordination. Nevertheless watching a good movie could have a similar effect though too a slightly lesser extent.

RE: Alternatives?
By Wagnbat on 1/2/2008 7:10:23 PM , Rating: 4
Did it really have to be computer games?
Why not run it against TV or a good book?
wont that have the same effect?

No, I don't think it has to be... Not if you have a good imagination. But there-in lies the difference. While you could easily get lost in a good book, could you do so while your body was in pain or otherwise under duress?

Video games nowadays are very stim ulating (as can be TV or a good book) as well as sim ulating... Creating content for you to immerse yourself in and not having to 'imagine' it. It is also interactive which gets you involved, and if it's a good game, could make you forget everything else during the session.

So yeah, it could be the same effect as TV or books for some... But I think overall, the benefit of computer games would be more widespread with regards to the benefits of immersion than reading or watching the boob toob.

RE: Alternatives?
By Ringold on 1/2/2008 7:34:21 PM , Rating: 4
Video games nowadays are very stim ulating

I think the Terran Marine knew all this almost a decade ago:

"Aaahh, that's the stuff! ... Jacked up and good to go!"

RE: Alternatives?
By Master Kenobi on 1/3/2008 8:13:19 AM , Rating: 3
Ah, those were the days. "Fire it up!"

RE: Alternatives?
By Polynikes on 1/3/2008 12:15:12 PM , Rating: 2
"En Taro Adun."

RE: Alternatives?
By DASQ on 1/4/2008 1:00:39 AM , Rating: 2
What do you mean "those were the days"??

I still play StarCraft on Battlenet!

RE: Alternatives?
By Moritz on 1/7/2008 7:11:47 PM , Rating: 2
"For Aiur"

RE: Alternatives?
By Cogman on 1/2/2008 7:12:51 PM , Rating: 2
While I believe the things you listed will take someones mind off the pain they are going through, they aren't as captivating as a computer game. For example, how often do you blink while reading a book or watching a tv? It is often times much more then you will blink while playing a computer game. That is because the game has your mind so wrapped up in solving the problem or task at hand that it doesn't focus on whatever else is going on around you.

I was just playing a game and after I got do with it I though "My butt is sore" I can completly believe that the game took my mind off of the pain enough that I didn't even really realize it was there.

The downside to all this is the fact that games are addicting (just like drugs) and while the effects aren't as detrimental IMO they are there. Putting off important tasks, loosing touch with those around you (have you ever had to "Snap out of it"?) all happen while playing games.

RE: Alternatives?
By xsilver on 1/2/2008 8:45:07 PM , Rating: 2
Im not sure I totally agree;
I think its all a matter of opinion.

I have on numerous times started reading a good book only to find that when I feel like I should stop reading its already 4am. (eg. I totally lost track of time)
That has never happened to me with a computer game.
I have played computer games however until I KNOW its 4am but still kept playing.

RE: Alternatives?
By omnicronx on 1/3/2008 9:56:21 AM , Rating: 2
Computer/Video games give you an endorphin rush, essentially giving you a natural high. It's why you get that adrenaline rush feeling after you play for a few hours, especially if it is a good game ;)

I have also seen studies like this one oulined on wiki.
'A study in 2004 by Georgia Tech found that runner's high might be caused by the release of another naturally produced chemical, the endocannabinoid anandamide. Anandamide is similar to the active chemical, THC, found in marijuana'

...I guess thats why I like mixing the two sooo soo much ;)

RE: Alternatives?
By Fusible on 1/3/2008 12:17:26 PM , Rating: 2
Well here is the deal. Video games make you think about your next move. While books your not expected to make decisions and interact with it. Video games involve making decisions that will result in the outcome there after. If you mess up you get another chance to approach the situation differently. There's constant change in brain activity while playing video games. Which will probably excite and cause the brain to release endorphines from the stimulation it is receiving. Similar to the way an athlete has to think about his next move. It all involves how your brain is stimulated. But there are those who just cant pick up a controller and play video games. What do you do about these individuals?

The US Military is using wiis
By Nik00117 on 1/2/2008 5:42:11 PM , Rating: 5
The US military is using wiis for physical therpay. Also get soliders minds off the pain itself.

And its very effective, I my friends dad who was injured in Iraq has said that when watching TV or something he gets shots of pain from his injury everyone once and a while, because he has time to worry about it. But on a game such as Wii sports is moving that injury (which helps heals it) and it keep shis mind off it. Pain is really a mind over matter thing, and the wii really helps take the mind over the matter.

By psychmike on 1/2/2008 8:49:07 PM , Rating: 3
Well said. ALL pain is in your head. In serious injuries, damaged tissues or nerve send nociception signals to the brain where it is processed as brain. In chronic pain conditions, long-term physiological, nerve, or brain changes continue to process the pain signal even if the original injury has healed.

Ramachandran suggested that pain is an evolutionarily-adaptive response to protect the body from further injury. He hypothesized that in some severe chronic pain conditions, one part of the brain issues a pain response when a different part of the brain plans to initiate movement. His treatment involved use of mirror boxes so that a person could move their unafflicted limb while it looked like he was moving his afflicted limb thereby retraining the brain that (apparent) movement of the afflicted limb does not have to result in pain. His well-documented studies produced very good results and subsequent functional imaging studies confirmed that mirror-box treatment leads to re-mapping of pain-somatosensory areas of the brain.


RE: The US Military is using wiis
By MBlueD on 1/3/2008 6:41:13 AM , Rating: 2
"Pain is not a problem - you just disconnect it".
- Future resistance soldier guy talking to Sarah, Terminator 1... I think.

By therealnickdanger on 1/3/2008 7:37:38 AM , Rating: 2
"My CPU is a Wii, a learning computah."

By CascadingDarkness on 1/2/2008 5:50:01 PM , Rating: 5
Check out my new RX!
2Hrs RPGs per day
2Hrs RTSs per day
1Hrs FPSs per day
Take before or after meal.

Can't wait until my boss hears I have to go to rehab to play COD4.

RE: Score!
By GhandiInstinct on 1/2/2008 6:16:31 PM , Rating: 2
He'll probably give you his XBOX gamer tag.

HA- what are these people on?
By Comdrpopnfresh on 1/2/2008 7:49:23 PM , Rating: 2
Having experience in both worlds, I can certainly tell you one has the ticket more so than the other- and they're pointing to the wrong one....

By NicePants42 on 1/3/2008 9:14:07 AM , Rating: 2
What are these people on?


Neither this article nor the one it links to provide any specific detail regarding the types of pain being treated or the drugs that the video games are competing against. Even the video game details are short - not that it should really matter what type of game the person is playing as long as it's fun/distracting - but it sounds like the research is being performed with VR helmets rather than Wiis. The article doesn't even specifically note that the game-players who showed improvement over drugs weren't ALSO on drugs.

Gate Control Theory
By psychmike on 1/2/2008 8:42:13 PM , Rating: 4
Ronald Melzack is a Canadian psychologist who co-developed the gate control theory which led to our modern understanding of pain, including the role of subjective experience, compensatory responses, central versus peripheral processing, and A- and C-nerves of pain transduction. There's a pretty good description of the theory on Wiki- that really shows how much Melzack added to the earlier and incomplete stimulus-response model.

Go Canada!


By zsdersw on 1/3/2008 7:30:10 AM , Rating: 4
Avoid the pharmacy if you can.. however you can, is my advice. Drugs these days, now more than ever, are engineered to keep you somewhere in between healthy and dead. Think about it: there's no money in dead people, and there's no money in healthy people either. There's *lots* of money in keeping you somewhere in between and engineering new threats to scare you into placing your trust in the latest miracle pill. How about eating right and exercising? It's been done for centuries and appears to have no side effects. Try it!

There's also a lot of money in capitalizing on and enhancing maternal worries. A flood of anti-bacterial-this and sanitizing-that products are built on nonsense that parents should "disinfect to protect", etc. Again, creating a dependence on a product to maintain "health". It's stupid. Our bodies have immune systems for a reason.. and kids are supposed to get dirty and sick from time to time. In the long run it's better for them than living in a germ-free bubble.

Though common sense is quite uncommon, more people should find it.. because it is a far more trustworthy weapon in the fight of you-versus-the-world than any drug or "health-promoting" product.

By erple2 on 1/2/2008 9:23:22 PM , Rating: 3
So the real question is, when are the spammers going to get word of this? When will they start spamming me to buy their pain-reducing video games? I can see it now, email messages with titles like:

"p a 1 n games. free downloads! fjdkgex"

Yay internet!

By Darkskypoet on 1/3/2008 9:25:57 AM , Rating: 3
for those proposing TV, or good book; yes, distracting activity helps to an extent, in taking your mind off of somthing. However, other activities (not all video games) like some video games, where you are concentrating on a visual character, or responding to stimuli you see affecting a visual character, could follow along the same principles as the mirror therapies used to trick your brain in to believing you are moving the affected muscles groups, when in fact you are not.

There are more then likely many different effects at play when utilizing a video game as analgesic, the immersiveness required by many games promotes brain activity that simply is not present in those watching a passive media. (tv, movies, etc)

The presence of an on screen character, and actions of your body that manipulate said onscreen character, transfer your concentration to reacting to stimuli effecting said onscreen character, and not your own body. (a la wii, and other games like that)

Additionally, first person shooters and the like, also require you to focus on stimuli coming at you, but in a completely different virtual environment and setting. Again, this remove your hand eye coordination, and other brain functions from working on, or really interacting noticeably with your own body, instead you don't think click mouse, click mouse, d, d, d, d, d, w, w, w, wd, click mouse. You think shoot, shoot, strafe, forward, move forward... In essence, your bodies actual movements are lost on your concious mind, and instead, the movements, of the 'you' in the game occupy it. Going along that track then, again, you are substituing virtual response and stimuli for real life response and stimuli.

All in all, I think it to be a combo of these sorts of effects at work, in combination with the individuals needs as they would differ from person to person, much like anyothe sort of reactions to stimuli. So for some, a good book is a great analgesic, for others perhaps its world of warcraft, and still others playing the wii. In many of theses cases we are simply transfering out conciousness to someone else, something else, somewhere else. And if we pull off the trick, then our mind doesn't conciously deal with real stimuli such as pain responses... It is too busy respondding to other virtual stimuli, whther imagined in our minds eye (book) or broadcasted to many of our senses (games).

I am a Chronic Pain sufferer.
By mdalynch on 1/3/2008 9:56:33 AM , Rating: 3
I too have noticed a decrease in my pain symptoms while I am immersed in my games. Furthermore in response to previous comments NO a book or a movie are not equavilent to video games as a distracrtive therapy. I am 24 now but when I fractured 5 Theoracic vertebrea I was 12. The fractures have long since been repaired, but I am by no means healed. I lay down multiple times a day to releave my pain. I had originally set up my computer next to my bed in order to find a replacement for counting the dots on the ceiling, but what I found out was that the games actually temporarily releaved my symptoms.

It is my opinion that the Canadian doctor is on to something. I have been offering the advice to play video games to the people I meet in my doctors offices for a while now. All I can say for a fact is that it helps, but there are pitfalls. One pitfall that I have experienced for myself is that after a particularly long session I have difficulty getting up again and the pain afterward is worse than at the beginning.

I for one prefer good medicine, it is the MOST affective form of treatment.

By jhinoz on 1/2/2008 8:23:14 PM , Rating: 2
can't back that claim up though.

a little theory..
By Silver2k7 on 1/3/2008 2:48:39 AM , Rating: 2
I think its more of if you do something you really like.. you will shift focus to what you are doing and become absorbed with it.. and then you will forget that you are in pain.. so nothig really to do with video games, other than that video games takes almost no physical movement so it might be easier to forget pain if you don't move around..

Seemed to have worked for me...
By DASQ on 1/4/2008 1:05:33 AM , Rating: 2
I do recall a specific instance where I was sick as a youth (perhaps 16? at the time). Fever, muscle aches, chills, all the joy.

Seemingly disappeared once I went to go join in on Unreal Tournament... like I had forgotten I was sick until I stopped playing, and then the pain came back.

By Christopher1 on 1/3/2008 9:08:14 PM , Rating: 1
Did anyone else read this article and say "Well, DUH!" I know I sure did.

The results of this study were not news to me. When I broke my leg at the age of 6-7 years old, my parents brought our Atari to the hospital and hooked it up to the TV there so that my roommate and I could play on it.
He had been burned to a crisp in a fire, was much worse off than me, and he said that playing those games kept him mind off the pain he was going through and alleviated the pain more than the morphine they were giving him.

Books, websites, etc.: anything that takes your mind off the pain that your body is going through and makes you basically ignore some of the pain is good!

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

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