Chronic pain and distorted body image: Implications for multisensory feedback interventions

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Abstract

Individuals with chronic pain often show a distorted body image. Various studies demonstrated that improvements in body image go along with symptom improvement in chronic pain. This renders distorted body images a promising target for feedback intervention programs. We propose that interventions that comprise of virtual reality (VR) multisensory feedback training provide a promising new avenue for the treatment of chronic pain. Thus far, VR-based interventions have been primarily applied to distract patients from pain. Recently, first attempts have been made to apply VR-based interventions as active sensory feedback training. VR-based feedback training allows the dynamic modification of virtual limbs that are perceived as one's own. This offers unique opportunities to target long-term associations between sensory input and pain in patients with chronic pain. We predict that multisensory VR feedback interventions could be effective in reducing fear-avoidance behavior and improving distorted body images. We review current developments and provide an outlook on future directions in the promising field of VR feedback interventions for the multisensory treatment of chronic pain.

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