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Chronic pain disorders are a common and expensive health problem worldwide. Available treatments for these disorders have been decreasing and new treatments are needed. Virtual reality (VR) has been used for acute and procedural pain for years but systems are only now becoming available for use with chronic pain. In this study patients with a chronic pain disorder were given the option of using either take-home virtual reality equipment for one month or take-home biofeedback equipment for one month. In the VR condition patients were oriented to the “PainCare” app but could access any free content from the internet as well. Qualitative data was gathered on 23 VR patients and 12 biofeedback patients. Pre-post measures of depression, catastrophizing and function were obtained from 17 VR patients and 8 biofeedback patients. Data found that there was a statistically significant decrease in depression and catastrophizing in the VR group but no such decrease was found in the biofeedback group. No significant increase in function was found in either group though the VR group trended in that direction. One hundred percent (100%) of the patients who tried VR reported that they thought it had helped them overall at least a little. Patient ratings of the VR equipment were more favorable than the biofeedback equipment. This non-randomized small sample study suggests that at-home VR use can be used successfully with patients to decrease the important treatment variables of depression and catastrophizing, and perhaps become a significant contribution to the treatment of chronic pain disorders.
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