Virtual reality is now helping to ease out Phantom Limb pain. For those who are new to the term, Phantom Limb pain refers to the degrees of pain which is felt in the area where a limb has been amputated. It is said that the successful treatment of the same is difficult and the treatment is usually determined based on the person’s level of pain, in fact in many cases multiple treatments may be combined. Now researchers have developed a new treatment where Virtual Reality can relieve the sensation of the Phantom limb by tricking the brain into thinking that the missing limb still exists.
“The tactile representation of different body parts are arranged in the brain in a sort of map. If the brain no longer receives feedback from an area, it tries to reprogram its signal reception map. That is the most common conception of how phantom limb pain occurs,” said Bo Geng from Aalborg University in Denmark in a statement.
Several tests were conducted which revealed that Phantom Limb Pain can be relieved if the brain is tricked in such a way to think that the amputated limb is attached to the body. By placing a mirror at an angle in the front of the chest which will then create a visual illusion that the body is symmetrical. If similar movements are repeated by moving both the hands the brain may get convinced that it is in contact with the amputated hand.
In this method the patient have to wear VR goggles and a glove. Electrodes are placed on the limb or the stump and the stump is then energised by small electrodes to create a visual of a phantom hand.
It is possible in VR to create a three dimensional world where one can move freely, grab things and conduct physical activities. Bo Geng further added, “The mirror therapy has some limitations because you have to physically sit down in front of a mirror, do the same movement in a confined space with both hands at the same time and keep your eyes on the mirror. The illusion can easily be broken.”
This new technology was tested at China Rehabilitation Center in 2016 where several patients were tested. Three of them responded positively to the test out of which two of them claimed that their pain was eased while the third one claimed that there is a decrease in Phantom Limb pain attacks.