Diane Gromala, an associate professor in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology and holder of a Canada Research Chair, heads the Transforming Pain Research Group at SFU.
She says chronic pain can be managed through virtual reality techniques, sometimes with better results than traditional means such as morphine.
Almost one in five Canadians suffer from chronic pain, which Gromala defines as pain that lasts more than six months.
She says computer technology can help control costs and waiting times as health care becomes more expensive and as the baby boom generation ages.
“Controlling pain through virtual reality therapies has the promise of providing successful, cost-effective alternatives to pain medications.”
Gromala and her colleagues use different virtual reality techniques, including virtual meditation and videogames.
“Controlled experiments consistently show that subjects who are distracted in fully immersive virtual reality environments feel less pain than their counterparts on drug-based pain treatments,” Gromala says.
For more information on Diane Gromala’s research: http://pain.iat.sfu.ca/