Patients use BreatheVR to take their mind off of medical procedures. Credit to: Neon

Take a pill for a headache, take a pill for joint or muscle inflammation, get sick or go through surgery and get prescribed a pain pill. There is a growing concern by patients and their loved ones about how strong and addictive pills are and whether they are a patient’s only solution to feeling less pain. Neon is a health and well-being software application company that uses the mind-body connection and potential of VR and AR as a means to control chronic pain without the side effects of pills.   

Proven Pain Reduction

VR and AR can reduce pain.

Doctors and neuropsychiatrists at Stanford University have used VR to decrease or eliminate some patients chronic pain. While Human Interface Technology Lab (HIT Lab) at the University of Washington is helping to treat pain during wound care with combat veterans that decreased their pain by fifty percent while in VR.

VR gamers like Sonya Haskins who live with chronic pain have found that playing games like Echo Arena and In Death have helped her feel less pain and has even helped her become more physically active. Virtual reality applications are quickly becoming a key interest in the medical and therapy fields due to these types of testimonials and pain relief findings.

Breathe, Relax, Distract With VR and AR

Children play with the AR app Whack A Mo to distract themselves from fright or pain during medical treatments. Credit to: Neon

Going to the doctor for a yearly checkup is certainly less stressful and physically taxing than having to go to the doctor monthly or weekly. Lots of people who go to the doctor regularly for health conditions have a hard time feeling calm when they know they are going to have a needle inserted for medicine, blood drawn for testing, or are recovering from surgery.

To help these patients, BreatheVR, a virtual mindfulness and breathing tool, promotes mental and physical relaxation with vibrant VR imagery of rolling hills, flowers, grass, trees and nature sounds like birds and calming music. The Gear VR, the app’s compatible headset, has a microphone that tracks your breath and influences the virtual landscape to move right along with your breath. A small trial of pain sufferers who used the app went from a pain rating of 7 to a 3.5 out of 10 and had a fifty percent reduction in pain. That’s a huge deal!

To keep up with technology and the needs of patients and hospital staff, Neon is looking to develop the app for the Oculus Go to keep current with the newest line of mobile-free and standalone headsets. In Silicon Republic, Deepa Mann-Kler, CEO and Founder of Neon shares the apps next move. “My goal is to remove the phone – anything that makes it easier for users – so I’d be very interested in developing an app for the Oculus Go, for instance,” she said.

The company is also working hard to keep up with the demand for health and well-being apps by proving their breathing app works through clinical trials and valuable patient feedback with their Whack A Mo app. Neon and Queen’s University Belfast are collaborating to bring about the Whack A Mo app, an immersive augmented reality (AR) game for the iPhone or iPad, that’s meant to distract patients who are children during cannula visits. Whack A Mo is being given a 3-month trial to see how well it helps block and reduce pain.

In the same Silicon Republic article Mann-Kler shares with readers that, “My motive is to use technology to enable people to feel human again. Opioids are not as effective as the drug companies claim, and they’re very addictive. There’s an opioid crisis here and in the US right now.” She’s right, with CNN reporting that 236 million opioid prescriptions were filled out in 2016 alone and with over 115 opioid overdoses each day, the search for alternative pain management avenues is more vital than ever.

Our Future Depends On Tech

Credit to: Neon

Boo-boos come and go but when you’re a child or an adult undergoing medical treatments, surgeries, pills, and IV placement, mindful breathing and playful distraction through VR and AR applications quickly become the shelter from the storm for hospital patients. BreatheVR and Whack A Mo apps are helping medical staff to help their own patients take control of their own pain relief without depending on medication alone.

We look forward to what Neon’s clinical trials will reveal about VR and AR technologies and their effectiveness for pain relief for children and adults. Let’s hope we won’t have to, but maybe one day we’ll be using VR and AR apps in our own doctor’s offices and for our own treatments. If the AR and VR treatment is there, I’ll take it! 

Look For More Neon Here

If you’d like to see more Neon produced content, watch Deepa Mann-Kler’s immersive VR story for the HTC Vive, called RETNE available on Steam or Viveport. You can also find Neon on their website, Facebook, and Twitter.