FDA Approves Virtual Reality Treatment for Back Pain
written by/ December 8, 2021
No, it’s not a sci-fi movie—the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a Virtual Reality (VR) System as a treatment for one of the most debilitating conditions worldwide—chronic back pain.
Affecting around 27 million adults in the States, back pain is a severe condition that leads to loss of productivity, sleep deprivation, and overall lower life quality.
The conventional treatment for a bad back usually involves pain medication (opioids), massages, exercises, steroids, surgery, and even nerve stimulation. Luckily, there’s a new addition—EaseVRx, the first-ever VR-based digital therapeutic system to receive FDA approval.
This system is the brainchild of AppliedVR, an LA-based company. The software offers games, exercises, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) sessions, and pain education—all of which aid people in managing or eliminating their back pain.
The software is loaded into a VR headset. Then patients should use it every day for eight weeks (56 days). The good part is that the sessions are short, lasting anywhere from 2 to 16 minutes.
This system, which sets CBT in an immersive environment, is a part of the FDA’s Breakthrough Devices Program. This means that upon receiving designation, it was granted a prioritized review.
Normally, the process involved a clinical trial that confirmed the system’s efficacy. It involved a total of 179 participants affected by chronic lower-back pain divided into two groups.
The first group included people subjected to the EaseVRx immersive 3-D program. The other group—the control group—was part of a 2-D program that didn’t employ cognitive behavioral therapy.
The results showed that 66% of the people in the first group experienced significant pain reduction throughout the program. What is more, the benefits remained for a certain period of time afterward, with some up to three months after the program.
With its formal market authorization, this VR treatment will be available by prescription for people with chronic back pain who are over 18 years old.
However, EaseVRx isn’t the only psychological method used for coping with back pain. There’s also the recently developed Pain Reprocessing Therapy, which basically focuses on ‘unlearning’ to experience and process specific body signals and pain.