Pain relief in SnowWorld


The other night my wife called me over to see a news story about SnowWorld.  SnowWorld is a kind of virtual reality computer game, where you move through an icy world, throwing snow balls at things like penguins and snowmen.  Are you excited yet?  Well, you should be.  The research relating to this game may be another breakthrough in the understanding of pain.

It’s been studied before – if you can get your mind off your pain, it helps.  That doesn’t mean your headache is all in your head, but a distraction is indeed therapeutic.  However, a recent study showed that a virtual reality world not only changes how you perceive pain, it actually changes the way the brain registers the pain signals in the first place.

This study actually tracked brain activity, but it supports earlier survey based studies.  Patients in this study filled out a survey as well, and it turned out that there was a 35% drop in time thinking about the pain, and a 36% decrease in the "unpleasantness" of the pain.

The use of virtual reality, where the patient puts on a helmet allowing her to see the virtual world, has been helpful for pain (like burn treatment – hence the cold environment) and even for phobias.  It may continue to develop to help people with severe head pain, but perhaps more important is what we’re learning about how the brain interprets pain signals.

David Patterson and Hunter Hoffman created SnowWorld, and you can learn more and see what it all looks like in Virtual Pain Relief.  A new version of SnowWorld called "SuperSnowWorld" is now in the works.

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1 comment… add one
  • Sarah Preo May 6, 2012

    I like this article, not really about the helmet, but about really taking your mind elsewhere.
    Personally I like to imagine myself in Oz. I loved all of Frank L. Baum’s books, he wrote many, many sequals to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The best part of them is that they are easy reads so when you’re migraine is eased up enough to where you can read a little bit, the books are perfect and as books can take you on a journey, in these books you get to be transported to Oz.

    The singer who has a really long name, israel iz kamakawiwoÊ»ole….nicknamed Izzy revamped the song What a Wonderful World and mashed it up with Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

    …Somewhere over the rainbow
    Bluebirds fly
    And the dreams that you dream of,
    Dreams really do come true (ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh)

    Someday I’ll wish upon a star
    And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
    Where troubles melt like lemon drops…

    I think thats everyone’s dream who has migraines… to wake up and the clouds to be far behind you.

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