The effectiveness of virtual reality distraction for pain reduction: a systematic review

Clin Psychol Rev. 2010 Dec;30(8):1011-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2010.07.001. Epub 2010 Jul 13.


Virtual reality technology enables people to become immersed in a computer-simulated, three-dimensional environment. This article provides a comprehensive review of controlled research on the effectiveness of virtual reality (VR) distraction for reducing pain. To be included in the review, studies were required to use a between-subjects or mixed model design in which VR distraction was compared with a control condition or an alternative intervention in relieving pain. An exhaustive search identified 11 studies satisfying these criteria. VR distraction was shown to be effective for reducing experimental pain, as well as the discomfort associated with burn injury care. Studies of needle-related pain provided less consistent findings. Use of more sophisticated virtual reality technology capable of fully immersing the individual in a virtual environment was associated with greater relief. Overall, controlled research suggests that VR distraction may be a useful tool for clinicians who work with a variety of pain problems.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Burns / psychology
  • Burns / therapy
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Injections / psychology
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Management*
  • Research
  • Treatment Outcome
  • User-Computer Interface*