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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 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.


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