Virtual Game Changer
Good Health Magazine Australia|April 2019
Virtual Game Changer

The Latest Virtual Reality Technologies Offer the Potential to Improve the Treatment of Everything From Spinal Injuries to Phobias. Sarah Marinos Finds Out More

Virtual reality is often seen as being about entertainment and the latest computer games, but the technology is increasingly being used to improve healthcare. Globally, researchers are harnessing virtual reality to restore a sense of feeling to people with spinal cord injury and to help women manage labour pain. The technology is also being used to help people overcome phobias and to help physiotherapy students get to grips with the human anatomy. Here we look at how virtual reality is changing healthcare…

Labour pains

Any woman who has experienced labour will understand how excruciating the pain can be. Experienced midwife, Lorna Massov, is investigating whether immersing women in a relaxing virtual reality world during labour can help ease anxieties during childbirth and ease the pain.

By wearing virtual reality goggles, women will see a series of realistic, three-dimensional scenes such as beaches, waterfalls, lush green forests and the universe and solar system.

Women will operate the easy-to-use headset and their heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored as they experience the virtual scenes.

Women will also rate their pain in the real world and while in the ‘virtual’ world, too.

Lorna has just begun her research at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand and is recruiting women willing to wear the headsets for 10-minute periods during pregnancy.

“I’ve spoken to midwives and pregnant women about the scenes they’d like to look at and they’ve highlighted nature-focused scenes, water features and landscapes. The idea is to create a relaxing virtual environment during labour,” says Lorna.

“Labour is a complex process and women are concerned about managing the pain and feeling in control of the birth. Some women use hypnosis, music, visualization and hydrotherapy to distract them during labour, and virtual reality can be another distraction.”

Lorna adds that hospital environments can be sterile, and so placing women in a more relaxing virtual environment may also help reduce the anxiety sometimes associated with being in hospital.

Spinal cord injury

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April 2019