Can video games help with pain management?


Like most of America, I don’t watch Rock Center. But I saw this story linked on Hot Air, and I can relate to it a little bit:

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It’s amazing that he got through that, and I can attest to the power of “virtual reality” in dealing with pain. I’ve never been through anything as horrible as Sam Brown has, but after I got hit by an SUV (driven by a State Department security agent, while I was crossing the street legally), I had two major surgeries on my shattered knee. They were about 10 months apart, and I had to do a lot of physical therapy to recover from each one. I spent a lot of time dealing with constant, severe pain. The medication helped somewhat, but I was worried about depending on it. I tried to find any distraction I could: blogging, books, TV, movies, music, anything I could focus on instead of the pain. Anything that took me outside myself.

And even more helpful than any of those things were video games. I’ve never hurled snowballs at penguins, but I’ve played plenty of Grand Theft Auto IV, Red Dead Redemption, Arkham Asylum, and other games of that nature. My tastes run toward nonlinear, open-world “sandbox” games where you can mess guys up. Not only have they helped with a lot of the anger I was feeling about it (and still do), but there’s something about the immersiveness of them. You lose yourself in this fictional world, it distracts you from the pain, and yet you still have some measure of control. It’s only the illusion of power, but sometimes that’s all you need. When you’re just trying to endure the next five minutes, you can do worse than pretending to be Batman.

Plus, it’s the only place where I can still run. Sometimes I’ll load up GTA IV or Red Dead or Assassin’s Creed and just run around. Well, okay, maybe I’ll kill some dudes too. Might as well, as long as I’m there.

I hope the military pursues this line of treatment for our guys. There’s still a lot we don’t understand about how pain works, but anything that can help is a blessing.

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