Industry Trends

VR Tech And Pain: This Is What It Means For The Future Of Pharma

pexels-photo-123335 (1)Our mothers always advised it — think of something other than the pain and it won’t hurt so badly. At the time, we would have rolled our eyes, but the tech world is bringing our mothers’ wise words to life.

Virtual reality (VR) is the newest medical technological advancement buzzing through healthcare hallways. Especially at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where they’re performing a new study using VR for pain management with hospitalized medical and surgical patients. Most current VR studies are being tested on psychiatric patients, but this new study could have a major effect on how we address pain management treatments.

With technology constantly advancing and studies making new discoveries about how the brain perceives pain, VR could disrupt the pharmaceutical sales world. It’s important to know all of the details so you can properly address questions and concerns from clients along the way.

Here’s what’s happening in the VR pain management world and some predictions on what it will do to the future of pharmaceutical sales:

The technology

When a small child bumps into a corner or falls, many parents smile, reassure them, or even hand them a toy to redirect their attention. It’s an innate reaction to jump up and run to their aid, so why are parents forcing themselves to stay calm and distract their child?

Believe it or not, there’s a science behind it — and VR is catching on. According to The effectiveness of virtual reality distraction for reducing pain: A meta-analysis, a report in Psychology of Consciousness in September, adults using VR while experiencing pain reported an average 82 percent reduction compared to those who do not.

In the study, the VR distraction takes patients’ minds off of the intensity of the pain. Medical institutions are taking these findings and using them to address many different medical situations:

Acute pain

VR has been used to distract patients during a variety of painful medical procedures. For example, doctors at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles offer patients a VR-like movie experience to reduce pain and anxiety during their stay. Similar to the above study, doctors agree the distraction is key to taking the focus off of painful sensations.

Researchers continue to work hard on linking the connection between VR and pain management. While most will tell you they don’t believe it’s the end-all solution for pain, it may be a good option for patients to alleviate some of their discomfort.

Phantom Limb

Not only is phantom limb pain a reality for most amputees, according to researchers from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden found about a third of them experience severe pain that worsens their disability, making prosthetics harder to use and affecting their mental state.

The researchers studied 14 patients who began experiencing phantom limb pain soon after they had an arm amputated. Participants were able to enter a VR world where they had all their limbs and were able to do activities they can’t do in real life — like drive a car.

This control over muscle activity relieved phantom limb pain in 50 percent of participants, which remained for six months. Fifty percent also reported a decline in interrupting pain sensations during sleep and other day-to-day activities.


Drug therapy during childbirth continues to be a hot topic in the healthcare world. But according to Erin Martucci — the first to use a VR headset during labor — medication wasn’t needed thanks to the distraction of a calming beach scene. While VR could offer a drug-free pain option during childbirth, many researchers are still skeptical of the effects it could have on cortisol levels which could interfere with a patient’s stress-levels during labor.

The future of pharmaceuticals

The opioid crisis is in full swing in America and it’s pushing a major healthcare trend away from pain medications. As new technology and other pain relief methods, like medical marijuana, offer alternatives, pharma will have to change their focus and mindset.

While VR is making big waves, it’s a way to alleviate pain, not end it altogether. In order to work with the changes, pharma sales reps need to put their focus on the needs of the patients and providing the highest quality solutions.

As a representative in the medical field, it’s always best to find ways to connect with and improve patients’ lives — not just make a sale. The medical field is booming, growing, and innovating — keep moving with it, by staying on top of the latest trends, doing your research, and understanding what your clients need to provide the ultimate care for their patients.

Do you think VR will be the next big thing in pain management? Let us know in the comments below!