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SnowWorld VR Game Reduces Pain For Burn Patients

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the probably-better-than-fireworld dept.

Medicine 64

Bonker writes "The Beeb has news of a simple virtual reality game being used during treatments and rehabilitation for burn patients. Players who engage in a fast-paced snowball fight with penguins and snowmen report feeling less pain. SnowWorld was developed by Professor Hunter Hoffman and Professor David Patterson at the University of Washington Harborview Burn Center in Seattle. Hoffman said, 'Because humans are so visually dominant, wherever you're looking typically that's where your attention is focused. (For patients) during wound care, when they're getting their bandages changed, they're looking at these different tools that the nurses are using to treat them, and just looking at those objects makes them anxious. They begin to associate objects in the room with high pain so you can imagine that day after day they start to develop psychological associations between the treatment room and pain, amplifying how much pain they experience.'"

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64 comments

Wish my dentist had this... (2, Insightful)

Manip (656104) | more than 3 years ago | (#35059658)

I REALLY wish my dentist had some kind of distraction... I mean going to the dentists is a really unfun experience generally speaking. I'd love to see TV, or a little game to draw attention from the drilling, poking, pulling, and injections.

Re:Wish my dentist had this... (3, Interesting)

Tolkien (664315) | more than 3 years ago | (#35059796)

One of the dental hygienists at my dentist's office looks like Yasmine Bleeth did back when Baywatch was popular and she leans over the chair and my head to have a clear view in my mouth, all the while pressing her very nice chest right up against my head. I always look forward to my dental appointments! She's even quite nice to converse with between dental instruments.

Re:Wish my dentist had this... (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 3 years ago | (#35065822)

It probably helps that the blood drains out of your head making you slightly delirious, then rushes back in again giving a feeling of euphoria.

Re:Wish my dentist had this... (1)

Tolkien (664315) | more than 3 years ago | (#35066834)

Not at all, the worst was when I got my wisdom teeth pulled and was watching the dentist pry them out with force, but I was anesthetized so I didn't feel it as much, though I did feel it more than I felt I possibly should have, I'm guessing I was just slightly resistant to the local anesthetic injection they gave me. It hurt like hell later of course but that's normal. During normal or minor (tooth repair or whatnot) the most they ever get out of me is a wince, they're worth every penny, and I get to enjoy a very nice cushion when the women lean over me. :)

Re:Wish my dentist had this... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35059804)

My childhood dentist had hygienists that looked like (70's era) Playboy bunnies. I found that helped quite a bit.

Unfortunately, my wife has no idea what to do with the drawer full of latex gloves, dental picks, and tooth polish.

Re:Wish my dentist had this... (3, Interesting)

migla (1099771) | more than 3 years ago | (#35059860)

I developed a slight aversion against being at the dentist since one time, when a dentist asked if I wanted anesthesia I thought if he asks, it can't be that bad...

When I'm in the chair, undergoing something unpleasant, I tap the back of my hand with my finger and try to focus my thoughts on my tapping. I think it might be helping a little.

I think there are techniques resembling this in cognitive behavioral therapy, but I haven't looked into it any deeper. I don't fear the dentist that much.

Re:Wish my dentist had this... (1)

yotto (590067) | more than 3 years ago | (#35060014)

I just bring my iPod and listen to podcasts. Kinda hard when they're drilling but just for normal stuff it makes the time fly by.

Re:Wish my dentist had this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35060322)

When I'm in the chair, undergoing something unpleasant, I tap the back of my hand with my finger

Not me. I need them to put me to sleep in the parking lot. My wife makes the appointment and doesn't tell me until the day of, because knowing I have a dentist appointment next week will cause me to lose sleep that entire week. I find myself hoping that the sun will go supernova before the morning of the appointment.

I think it came from my childhood dentist being an old drunk who smelled of Sen-Sen and didn't have a clue about trying not to hurt the patient. My parents, a couple of immigrants, went to one of the excellent dental schools in my city for low-cost care in order to save money and got excellent treatment. They thought they were doing me a favor by sending me to a "real" dentist, but he was 25 years behind the times in terms of technology and usually at least one sheet to the wind. I never had the heart to tell my folks that they caused me to have a lifetime fear of dentists.

In the past few years, I started going to the dental school at the big university dental school and even the greenest student is light years ahead of my childhood dentist. They know I'm a big baby and they take great care of me. Also, I find that women make the best dentists. They're gentle and their hands are small. The Korean girl who is my current dentist is really great but she graduates in June and I'm worried about who I'll get next.

Re:Wish my dentist had this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35060964)

I try to focus on the fact that I'm not a pussy and I've been through far more pain than having a little bit of fucking dental work done. Seriously...grow a set of balls you bunch of fucking jackholes-in-namby-pamby-land.

Re:Wish my dentist had this... (2)

rainmouse (1784278) | more than 3 years ago | (#35061692)

I try to focus on the fact that I'm not a pussy and I've been through far more pain than having a little bit of fucking dental work done. Seriously...grow a set of balls you bunch of fucking jackholes-in-namby-pamby-land.

Your right, computer nerds would never consider trying to use science to remove discomfort; they are well known for pointless gestures of machismo.

Re:Wish my dentist had this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35065556)

I try to focus on the fact that I'm not a pussy and I've been through far more pain than having a little bit of fucking dental work done. Seriously...grow a set of balls you bunch of fucking jackholes-in-namby-pamby-land.

Welcome to /., Chuck Norris.

Re:Wish my dentist had this... (1)

Tolkien (664315) | more than 3 years ago | (#35064374)

I look them dead in the eye. Especially the hot one, can't get enough of her. Oooooohhhmmmmm.

Re:Wish my dentist had this... (1)

Veinor (871770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35061312)

Yeah, until you jerk your head involuntarily in reaction to something exciting on the TV.

Re:Wish my dentist had this... (1)

Kurofuneparry (1360993) | more than 3 years ago | (#35061658)

My dentist has had TVs in his ceilings for years. He, his hygienists and his patients all love it. I'm not sure why other offices haven't tried the idea. Maybe that's a business waiting to happen? Then again, I'm an idiot....

Re:Wish my dentist had this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35062192)

I know very old proverb - that "people of culture go to the dentist before their teeth ache", so they don't have bad/painful experiences there.

Re:Wish my dentist had this... (1)

arihollander (1987258) | more than 3 years ago | (#35062374)

My company, Firsthand Technology, built the version of SnowWorld, in the video (and most of Dr. Hoffman's VR applications since about 1995).

Funny you should mention dentists... Our most recent application (not for Dr. Hoffman) is a Science Fiction game: "Attack! of the S. Mutans," a stereoscopic 3D multiplayer game with 11-foot screens and WiiMotes that is part of an oral heatlh education exhibit. We have contemplated using VR in dentists offices many times over the years. The issue that keeps stopping us is that the analgesic effect relies on wide field of view (> 60-degrees diagonal). HMDs with this FOV start at about $35k and have a 100% failure rate within the first year. Recently we decided to make our own better, cheaper, non-head-mounted display for pain control. This device is suitable for pain control, but is probably too bulky for the Dentist's chair.

See Firsthand's website [firsthand.com] for more info

I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35059670)

Is it just the taking away of attention from the treatment that causes it, or is it the fact that it's a snow game?

Re:I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35060180)

Probably a little of both. I know I don't want to be playing a game with flame throwers after being burned bad enough to be in a burn unit.

Always forget how much needle anxiety there is (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35059692)

When I was a kid, I was on some drugs that the doctors had to occasionally monitor. Its been a long time, but, still to this day I have the occasional flobotomist who tells me "Don't you want to look away?", or is a little taken aback by the fact that I just sit there and watch the needle go in, and the blood come out. It really doesn't hurt that much (unless they fuck it up...)

Then again, I am also told that I am a flobotomists dream "You don't have veins, you have hoses" one told me, as she drew the 6th vial of blood, without having to switch veins.

Re:Always forget how much needle anxiety there is (2)

Anonymusing (1450747) | more than 3 years ago | (#35059742)

I have veins like that too -- and I also don't have a problem with watching the needle. Hey, I'm getting it done because it has to get done.

The grammar snob in me would like to point out that you meant "phlebotomist". But it's a tough word to spell. Probably a lot of points in Scrabble, too.

Re:Always forget how much needle anxiety there is (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#35059906)

It could be that you're more relaxed, and that means the bloodflow to the arms and legs doesn't get cut off by the anxiety response. Me, I've got no problem there either, 4 vials I think was the most they've drawn in one go. I've got a serious phobia of lancets (those little thing that go "click" against your finger) though - last time I could have one used on me, I was half out of it from appendicitis.

Re:Always forget how much needle anxiety there is (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35061106)

Same here. Totally off topic, but the other day I have to have some blood work done for my yearly military work-up and the *very* green phlebotomist went through the whole procedure and after about two minutes and one vial starting complaining about how slow my blood flows. I wasn't going to because it was amusing and I was having fun, but I went ahead and pointed out that she never removed the tourniquet. Amazing how much faster it came out after that...and how red she got from the embarrassment. I bet she doesn't do that again.

Re:Always forget how much needle anxiety there is (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35069346)

Heh funny what people will put up with for humor. My wife and I love this diner up the road and like to go there on weekends so much that we address the wait staff by name. One day we sat down at the counter, and one of the owners was serving... she kind of forgot about us.. never took our order.

Anywhere else, we would have said something, and my wife would have been pissy and making comments by this point. However, instead we were giggling about, and joking about how we should take bets on how long it will be before she notices us.

After a while, one of the cooks realized that we were still sitting there and people that came after us go ttheir food, and he didn't see an order.... so he said something to her. We had a good laugh about it.

Re:Always forget how much needle anxiety there is (1)

Schadrach (1042952) | more than 3 years ago | (#35060074)

I'm exactly the opposite. I inherited my mother's veins -- tiny spidery things that flatten out when I straighten my arm. Usually when blood is drawn from me it's drawn from the back of my hand. My nephew passes out when he has blood drawn, the next time he's vertical and moving, whether immediately or 15 minutes later.

Re:Always forget how much needle anxiety there is (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35060712)

I can't watch my blood being drawn... It's not the needle. You could stick me with that thing for eight hours and I'd just go home and drink a beer. But the sight of blood pumping with my own heartbeat into a little vial? I pass right the fuck out.

Re:Always forget how much needle anxiety there is (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 3 years ago | (#35061884)

I'm like that I'd much rather watch and know when something is going to hurt and to be surprised by pain, put me out or let me watch. I was also a burn patient, I lit my right hand on fire and the article is right, the pain from the burn is less than the pain from being treated. They had me on so much morphine that I had to remember to breath and it still hurt more than anything else being deroofed. Luckily my burns were not severe enough to require skin grafting, but looked bad enough for the local hospital to transfer me to the regional burn center, where they knew what they were doing.

Oh great! (4, Funny)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35059700)

Now they'll associate the pain with snow and penguins! (surely this can't be some MS plot... right? Right?!)

Re:Oh great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35061848)

Thank you, my good sir. I had just woken up and felt really miserable until I read your hilarious comment.

I remember (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35059714)

i remember seeing stuff like this posted here in the past.
i believe it was a game about people destroying cancer cells having a beneficial effect on them.

Video games have always been great distraction (4, Insightful)

AndyAndyAndyAndy (967043) | more than 3 years ago | (#35059744)

Example sicknesses, associated with the corresponding distraction:
  • Chickenpox, age 11, Sonic 2
  • Food poisoning, age 16, GTA III
  • Flu, age 18, Metal Gear Solid 2
  • Dental surgery, age 21, Freelancer
  • Mono, age 22, (Nothing, that was awful)

I mean it's probably not so easy now being an adult, but video games have always been a huge help when it comes to getting over sicknesses. It makes perfect sense for burn victims, especially, to have an immersive type of distraction. We have the ability to, so why not?
Also, I'm not sure why they came up with a brand-new game for this, when they could have just set up Mario 64 and had them race the penguin on loop.

Re:Video games have always been great distraction (2)

healyp (1260440) | more than 3 years ago | (#35059940)

"Also, I'm not sure why they came up with a brand-new game for this, when they could have just set up Mario 64 and had them race the penguin on loop."

Because that level was so god damned aggravating! I don't remember how many times I've been down that fucking course! One false move and it's into the abyss! The song is still stuck in my head...

Re:Video games have always been great distraction (2)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#35062462)

Example sicknesses, associated with the corresponding distraction:

Distraction, or nefarious cause?!

I'm going to assume you already had Sonic 2 when you came down with chickenpox, and similarly for the other instances, and further assume you had played it quite a bit despite not being sick, and lastly I'm going to assume that correlation equals causation, proving that video games cause diseases and dental maladies that require surgery! Except Mono, thank goodness for that.

And if that seems illogical, that's because video games are so evil that they warp reality, and the illogical becomes fact!

Which, by the way, I'm pretty sure means the only way to stop the video game scourge is to give everyone mono!

Re:Video games have always been great distraction (1)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 3 years ago | (#35063708)

I don't know if it's just distraction, or actual association with cold that counteracts the feeling of the heat damage. I know when I watched "The Day After Tomorrow", as stupid as the movie was, it authentically made me feel cold, and I bundled up in a thick sweater in the middle of summer. Of course, I'm a desert rat who craves the heat, but even then it was quite an excessive physical response.

Re:Video games have always been great distraction (1)

Bonker (243350) | more than 3 years ago | (#35064438)

I've always thought that Child's Play [childsplaycharity.org] was the most fantastic take on this. Video games distract you from the suck when you're sick or in pain. Gabe, Tycho, and thousands of gamers have grown up in the last couple decades experiencing that and have brought the same relief to lots of kids.

These guys are in Seattle. They need to hook up.

Re:Video games have always been great distraction (1)

Ja'Achan (827610) | more than 3 years ago | (#35064890)

Sounds great! What game do you recommend for people with RSI pains?

WoW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35059748)

If they really want to distract people, they need to get them playing WoW.

Get their level 30 characters ganked by night elf hunters that hump your corpse, then /spit, /point, /laugh at you and they'll eventually nerd rage enough that they can put their fist through a wall without feeling pain.

This is OLD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35059832)

What is is with /. posting research that first-year psych students have been learning for the last decade? Between this and the "self-control predicts future success" story, I feel like I'm back in undergrad.

It's the Penguins (2)

kbob88 (951258) | more than 3 years ago | (#35059890)

Clearly it's the penguins that are helping!

In another study, patients who played a game that featured windows and paper-clips reported much levels of pain...

Re:It's the Penguins (2)

kbob88 (951258) | more than 3 years ago | (#35059896)

that's what I get for blowing though the preview page -- I meant much higher levels of pain

Re:It's the Penguins (1)

Beerdood (1451859) | more than 3 years ago | (#35060670)

And in yet another related study, patients who ended up playing dante's inferno and Diablo 2 reported much MUCH higher levels of pain...

Kidding aside, I wonder how much theme of the game (considering the patients illness) has to do with it, as opposed to any other type of game. Does the snowball / penguin thing help more because they're burn victims - or would any game provide the same kind of relief (a distraction is all that's necessary). If there's a correlation, maybe we can 'prescribe' some Dr Mario to hypochondriacs, or 'prescribe' The Sims 3 to those with social anxiety disorder.

Old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35059916)

This has been around for a while, partly cause it's academic research. Still very cool. ahaha

(2008) http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2008/11/snowy-game-vr-goggles-take-burn-victims-minds-off-of-pain.ars
(2004) http://www.sciencentral.com/articles/view.php3?language=english&type=24119&article_id=218392308&cat=all

wow (1)

Is0m0rph (819726) | more than 3 years ago | (#35060050)

If SnowWorld helps that much imagine what PornWorld will do!

Re:wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35060698)

Coincidentally, my RSS feed made the headline look like "...bum patients"...

Old, old story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35060268)

This is a very, very old story. The SnowWorld project at UW's HITLab has been around for a very long time. Here's the earliest publication, from 2001, that I could find. Only a decade ago:
Hoffman, H.G., Patterson, D.R., Carrougher, G.J. and Sharar, S. (2001). The effectiveness of virtual reality based pain control with multiple treatments. Clinical Journal of Pain, 17, 229-235. PDF [washington.edu]

Hunter Hoffman (1)

loafula (1080631) | more than 3 years ago | (#35060270)

Anyone else notice how his name is more or less a mash up of Hunter Thompson and Albert Hofmann?

Wish I had this (1)

Brando787 (1798386) | more than 3 years ago | (#35060332)

I suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns on my hand about 5 years ago, and let me tell you, I wish I had something like this to take my mind off the pain. The best theyu could do for me was for me to watch movies. That just doesn't provide enough to focus on to be able to ignore the pain. A video game definitaley would have helped.

Re:Wish I had this (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 3 years ago | (#35062012)

The pain didn't bother me as much as the itching stinging gritty sensation, like having a bad sunburn for 3 fucking months! Well it might have lasted for longer but a visiting MD. told me about benadryl.

Natural pain killing? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35060470)

I wonder of one of the other effects is that playing a fast game kicks in the fight part of the fight or flight reflex. In this state the body releases natural pain killing chemicals that increase one's ability to fight and not get distracted by pain.

Huh. (1)

HamSammy (1716116) | more than 3 years ago | (#35061304)

A game filled with snow helping burn victims feel less pain? Imagine that.

Re:Huh. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35061586)

a bottle full of morphine would help a lot more

Re:Huh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35063550)

Actually, SnowWorld is often used with patients for whom morphine is not enough. Morphine + SnowWorld Is more effective than morphine alone. Also, not everyone can use morphine: for example there are a large number of opiate addicts with burn injuries.

Re:Huh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35063488)

Dr. Maureen Simmons at McGill tested the metaphorical content. We built two alternate versions of SnowWorld: one with lava monsters, rivers of fire and ashes raining down, and another with a nonsense mixture of imagery (as the control). Guess which one was most effective...

The control!

Seems that the cognitive load of the nonsense imagery has a greater effect than the metaphor in VR analgesia.

Old News - 7 years. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35064270)

This research was published in Scientific American in 2004.
I think I still have that issue on my book shelf, somewhere.

Old hat by now!

Distraction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35066504)

A MS 'victim', I have pins stuck in me at least every week, and other painfully tiresome actions as well. When there isn't a telly to distract, him indoors reads whatever drivel he's reading to me - immunobiology, dendrochronology, economic history. Concentrating on that helps blur the mind-burning.

Obviously, greater pain requires greater distraction.

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