In the face of raw pain and fear, doctors have a new drug at their fingertips: A virtual reality headset.
Virtual reality customized for use during medical procedures could end up being more than mere distraction. One recent study found that 20 minutes with a calm VR game dramatically reduced patients' acute pain, reports Technology Review.
RELATED: Immerse Yourself: 10 Amazing Virtual Reality Games
Now that virtual reality headsets are coming down in price, startups are going beyond immersive gaming. Los Angeles-based AppliedVR developed a VR platform specifically for clinical settings. They're working with partners Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and Stanford to test it as a drug-free alternative for pain from procedures like blood work, epidurals, and chemo.
One of their pain relief platforms is a straightforward game called Bear Blast, where a patient moves her head to toss balls at cartoon bears, according to Technology Review's Rachel Metz. That's it. There's no injury or death in the game. A Cedars-Sinai study showed that patients spending 20 minutes with VR software went from 5.5 on the pain scale to 4 -- about a 24 percent reduction.
WATCH VIDEO: Virtual Reality: Turning Our Minds Inside Out