In the past, I’ve mentioned my sense that chronic pain has several elements: the pain itself, your attention to the pain, and your emotional reaction to the pain. (This is probably true with all types of pain but is more noticeable with chronic nagging pain.)
It turns out there’s a military cognitive psychologist who is treating the attention part of pain by using a virtual reality video game (called SpiderWorld) to distract people (specifically burn victims, often soldiers) from their pain.
One day in 1994, a colleague of Hoffman’s told him he’d been observing patients at a burn center using hypnosis to control pain. His colleague wasn’t exactly sure how the treatment worked, but he thought it had something to do with distraction.
“Distraction?” Hoffman said. “I’ll show you distraction,” and he showed his friend SpiderWorld.
Not long after, Hoffman went to meet the hypnotist himself, who agreed VR sounded like a pretty good idea. On the very first burn patient they tried, SpiderWorld worked. He simply forgot to think about his pain.
From there it sounds like they’ve had impressive results.