Written by Tiffany Simon | Edited by Denayed
Last year, we published a two-part series on mental health and the gaming community. You can find them here and here. We want to bring back the series this year from even more perspectives, so if you’re a gamer who suffers from any disorders or chronic conditions, please let us know! We’d love to listen to your story.
I have been struggling with chronic pain for about 15 years now. I have moderate to severe scoliosis, joint issues in my right leg, and unspecified chronic pain. My scoliosis is 3 curves; one of the curves is over 30 degrees and continuing to worsen, classifying it as progressive adult scoliosis.
Needless to say, none of that is fun at all. However, I’ve found an immense reprieve in gaming, and I want to share that in hopes that others with chronic pain can also find relief.
Gaming is a great way to reduce pain. In 2020, one study showed that patients experiencing pain associated with chemotherapy reduced their pain by 30% by playing video games. Another study done in 2003 revealed that playing an actively engaging video game helps to distract individuals from their chronic pain: both reducing chronic pain and building up pain tolerance. Thinking about people being able to overcome their daily pain by hopping on a game of League of Legends is so encouraging to me. Who knew that Call of Duty had positive mental effects? (just kidding, just kidding).
Here’s something else to consider. Some studies are beginning to reveal the benefits of virtual reality on chronic pain. A study in 2019 took 20,000 patients with varying conditions and presented them all with VR therapy for their pain. Overall, an 84% effectiveness rate was found across the board, including in oncology, orthopedics, neurology, and obstetrics. This study also looked at mental health conditions such as anxiety, phobias and veterans suffering from PTSD.
According to the American Pain Society, video games have a huge impact on pain. The common conception is that when we play games, our focus is drawn from the pain to the video game, and we’re able to push the pain to the back of our minds. However, studies have found that the mechanism of pain relief in gaming is actually a lot more complicated than common distraction and can deal with even greater, more serious pain. According to researchers, there are biochemical changes that occur when a patient is in a full virtual-reality environment. Essentially, these biochemical changes cause decreased signals in areas of the brain associated with pain. If you’re interested in more on this, check out this Try Guys video!
On a personal level, I am no stranger to using gaming to relieve pain. I’ve seen a significant decrease in pain for up to an hour after a good gaming session. Is that perfect? No, but having a whole hour where I’m nearly pain-free is incredible. Additionally, because I’ve built up a pain tolerance from my chronic conditions, I don’t always notice when I need to slow down or take a break, and sometimes I need to recuperate for days. On this front, video games have also helped me to learn to pace myself by taking short, frequent gaming breaks.
Do you have experiences where gaming has provided you pain relief? Drop us a comment!