Virtual reality aimed at easing stress may be an adjunctive therapy for children and adults with inflammatory bowel disease and other abdominal complaints, linked to significant reductions in pain and anxiety, researchers have found.
Stress is known to exacerbate disease activity and symptoms in IBD, while mindfulness-based interventions have been shown to improve emotional distress, pain and inflammation in children and adults with chronic illness and pain. Although few mindfulness-based interventions have been explored for IBD, VR is increasingly prevalent in children’s hospitals, making the combination of VR and medication appealing.
In one study, presented at the 2020 Crohn’s and Colitis Congress (abstract P046), researchers enrolled 62 patients aged 10 to 25 years with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, who were seen in the outpatient setting. The median age was 15 years, 58% were male and 62% were white. Participants completed pain and anxiety visual analogue scales before and after the intervention, which consisted of six minutes of immersive VR focused on breathing instructions in natural environments using Samsung Gear-VR headsets. After the intervention, the participants completed patient satisfaction forms and provided qualitative feedback.