Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Video Games Used to Treat Pain

An article in last Sunday's New York Times titled, Specialists See Tools to Treat Pain in Video Games, explains how the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C. is using motion sensor-based video games to treat pain. The hospital's new Pain Medicine Care Complex, a program dedicated exclusively to managing pain for infants, children, and teens has recently started using Microsoft Kinect-enabled video games, that allow players to interact through their body movements and gestures. Coupled with this off-the-shelf gaming hardware, is a custom software application that not only allows the user to control the game through their skeletal movements, but it monitors and records the user's skeletal data for further research. The application allows players to manage their pain, while it measures and tracks it at the same time.

Pain Medicine Care Complex Using Video Games to Treat Pain
Pain Medicine Care Complex

The program tracks 24 points on the user's body throughout their session, compiling data about their movements as well as the angles, distance, speed, and frequency at which those movements are made. While discussing the program in the article, Dr. Sarah Rebstock, a pediatric anesthesiologist and program director of the Pain Medicine Program, says:
“Since it’s digital information, we can manipulate it, understand it, analyze it. So from a research perspective, it’s a treasure trove of information that would help us formulate new metrics in order to treat these patients.”
The program immerses and engages users to the point where they are no longer focusing on their pain, while at the same time using stretching and strengthening techniques borrowed from yoga and physical therapy to increase patients range of motion and overall strength.


Multi-Sensor Room Features Interactive 3D Games to Master Pain
Doctor's are able to track a user's movements over time to see those areas where progress is being made, and those that need more attention, in order to tailor a virtual experience towards each patient's specific needs. Dr. Hamid Ekbia, a research professor at Indiana University Bloomington and the Director of the Center for Research for Medicated Interaction, says in the article:
“If we can capture this data that shows the progress of the patient, and allow the therapist to document how the patient is doing and even generate automatic reports, that’s going to provide a lot of savings of money and time.”
 
While the program is currently only available to patients who are at the medical complex, they are currently working to create a consumer version that will allow patients to own the system and use it at their homes.

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