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  1. J. Tsigarides1,
  2. V. Grove1,
  3. D. Sethi1,
  4. J. Chipping1,
  5. S. Miles1,
  6. N. Shenker2,
  7. S. Sami1,
  8. A. Macgregor1
  1. 1University of East Anglia, Norwich Medical School, Norwich, United Kingdom
  2. 2Addenbrookes University Hospital, Rheumatology, Cambridge, United Kingdom


Background: Chronic pain is debilitating and prevalent. Current non-pharmacological management of pain conditions such as Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) are labour intensive to implement and poorly available, especially during the pandemic. There is an urgent need to develop widely adoptable, innovative treatment options for pain cohorts.

Virtual reality (VR) provides an innovative therapeutic tool, immersing users within a three-dimensional, interactive virtual environment with use of a head-mounted display (HMD). Beneficial effects of VR have been demonstrated in acute pain1, with limited studies in chronic pain. Given the variation of available VR technologies, it is vital to investigate the impact of different VR characteristics on acceptability in specific chronic pain cohorts.

Objectives: This feasibility study aims to establish the acceptability of four different VR technologies in patients with FMS whilst undertaking a single interactive VR experience.

Methods: Patients with FMS were recruited through outpatient clinics at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Baseline questionnaires were used including the McGill pain questionnaire (MPQ-SF), pain visual analogue scale (VAS) and Revised Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQR). Subjective experience questionnaires collected acceptability data with 7-point Likert scale rating questions (strongly disagree to strongly agree). The simulation sickness questionnaire (SSQ) gained side-effect data (total severity score: 0-235). Categorical data were described using frequencies; and continuous data using mean and standard deviation. Likert-scale data were dichotomised (rating ≤3: disagree, rating ≥5: agree).

Four VR systems representing the spectrum of commercially available technologies were used (seen in Figure 1). These possess different characteristics including screen resolution, processor speed, weight, strap and controller type. The VR experience used with each headset was co-developed alongside industry partners (Orbital Global). Participants are immersed within a naturalistic environment, situated on a wooden boat travelling slowly along a calm river surrounded by trees and hills. The interactive element involves the user shooting targets that appear using handheld controllers.

Results: 13 patients with FMS were included (mean age 41.8±15.6, 92.3% female). Most had severe disease (mean FIQR 67.8±14.1) with moderate self-reported pain at baseline (mean MPQ 25.5±8.8, VAS 6.0±1.7). Most had no previous VR exposure (69.2%). 100% of participants agreed that they would be open to using VR for future pain management (mean rating 6.5±0.7) and that they would use VR regularly at home (mean rating 6.5±0.7). VR HMD comfort and enjoyment data are presented in Table 1. Mean ratings of comfort were high across the four HMDs (Gear VR: 4.9±1.7, Oculus Go: 4.5±1.8, Oculus Quest 5.3±1.9, Oculus Rift 6.6±0.5). Mean ratings of enjoyment with each HMD were also high (Gear VR: 5.4±1.6, Oculus Go: 5.4±1.8, Oculus Quest: 5.6±1.9, Oculus Rift S: 6.6±0.5). Low levels of side effects were described with mean SSQ total scores ranging from 20.1±16.8 (Oculus Rift S) to 38.0±23.9 (Gear VR).

Conclusion: Preliminary results indicate that FMS patients find VR acceptable, describing high ratings of comfort and enjoyment across the VR HMD spectrum. Side-effect frequency was low, with most settling after HMD removal. All participants were open to future use of VR for home-based pain management.

References: [1]Dascal J, Reid M, Ishak WW, Spiegel B, Recacho J, Rosen B, Danovitch I. Virtual reality and medical inpatients: A systematic review of randomized, controlled trials. Innov Clin Neurosci 2017;14(1-2):14-21

Table 1.

Subjective experience results across VR HMDs

Acknowledgements: I would like to acknowledge the contributions of the staff working within the Rheumatology department at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. I would also like to thank and acknowledge our participants for being involved in the study.

Disclosure of Interests: Jordan Tsigarides Grant/research support from: Our digital health industry partners (Orbital Global) provided a small financial contribution to support this study., Vanessa Grove: None declared, Dheeraj Sethi: None declared, Jacqueline Chipping: None declared, Susan Miles: None declared, Nicholas Shenker: None declared, Saber Sami: None declared, Alex MacGregor: None declared.

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