Active and passive distraction using a head-mounted display helmet: effects on cold pressor pain in children

Health Psychol. 2007 Nov;26(6):794-801. doi: 10.1037/0278-6133.26.6.794.


Objective: The current study tested the effectiveness of interactive versus passive distraction that was delivered via a virtual reality type head-mounted display helmet for children experiencing cold pressor pain.

Design: Forty children, aged 5 to 13 years, underwent 1 or 2 baseline cold pressor trials followed by interactive distraction and passive distraction trials in counterbalanced order.

Main outcome measures: Pain threshold and pain tolerance.

Results: Children who experienced either passive or interactive distraction demonstrated significant improvements in both pain tolerance and pain threshold relative to their baseline scores. In contrast, children who underwent a second cold pressor trial without distraction showed no significant improvements in pain tolerance or threshold.

Conclusion: Although both distraction conditions were effective, the interactive distraction condition was significantly more effective. Implications for the treatment of children's distress during painful medical procedures are discussed.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cold Temperature
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Threshold* / psychology
  • User-Computer Interface
  • Video Games*