Virtual Reality Analgesia for Burn Joint Flexibility: A Randomized Controlled Trial

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Abstract

Objective: We conducted a randomized controlled study to determine the effects of virtual reality (VR) distraction on pain and range of motion (ROM) in patients hospitalized for burn care during active physical therapy exercises. Method: Thirty-nine participants aged 15 to 66 (M = 36) years with significant burn injuries (mean burn size = 14% TBSA) participated. Under therapist supervision, using a within-subjects design, participants performed unassisted active ROM exercises both with and without VR distraction in a randomized order. Therapists provided participants with instructions but did not physically assist with stretches. Maximum active ROM was measured using a goniometer. A 0–100 Graphic Rating Scale (GRS) was used to assess the cognitive, affective, and sensory components of pain. A GRS rating of the amount of “fun” during stretching served as a measure of positive experience. Results: Participants reported lower mean GRS ratings during VR, relative to No VR, for worst pain, pain unpleasantness, and time spent thinking about pain. They also reported having a more positive experience during VR than during No VR. However, patients did not show greater ROM during VR. Conclusion: Immersive VR reduced pain during ROM exercises that were under the control of the patient.

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