AppliedVR's virtual reality device shows positive effects in back pain study

According to a study published Monday in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, individuals with chronic low back pain who underwent a self-administered, behavioural skills-based virtual reality (VR) programme for eight weeks using AppliedVR's EaseVRx achieved superior outcomes in terms of pain relief, and on pain-related interference with activity, mood and stress, compared with placebo.

"Treatment effects ranged from moderately to substantially clinically important. Therapeutic VR had high rates for engagement and user satisfaction," the authors said. "Home-based VR appears to provide effective and on-demand nonpharmacologic treatment for chronic low back pain," they added.

The study included 179 adults who had been suffering with self-reported, non-malignant low back pain for at least five years. Participants were randomised to undergo an immersive pain relief skills VR programme via EaseVRx or a sham VR consisting of 2D nature content. The primary outcomes looked at the effect of EaseVRx versus placebo across time points, as well as the change in average pain intensity and pain-related interference with activity, stress, mood and sleep over time, from baseline to day 56. Secondary goals assessed global impression of change and change in physical function, sleep disturbance, pain self-efficacy, pain catastrophising, pain acceptance, pain medication use and user satisfaction.

EaseVRx superior for all primary outcomes

Results showed that EaseVRx was superior to sham VR for all primary outcomes. "For EaseVRx, large pre–post effect sizes ranged from 1.17 to 1.3 and met moderate-to-substantial clinical importance for reduced pain intensity and pain-related interference with activity, mood and stress," the authors said. Regarding secondary outcomes, between-group comparisons for physical function and sleep disturbance showed superiority for the EaseVRx arm versus placebo, although pain catastrophising, pain self-efficacy, pain acceptance and prescription opioid use did not reach statistical significance for either group. Meanwhile, over-the-counter analgesic use was reduced for EaseVRx, but not for sham VR, the researchers noted.

"Additional studies are needed to determine effects in demographically diverse populations and in other pain conditions," the authors said, adding that more work is also needed "to characterise mechanisms of treatment effects and durability of effects."

Last year, AppliedVR announced that EaseVRx had received an FDA breakthrough device designation for treatment-resistant fibromyalgia and chronic intractable lower back pain.

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