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Pain Management Health Center

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An Upside to Video Game Violence?

Video Games May Distract Patients From Pain, Says Researcher
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 5, 2005 -- Video games may distract players from pain, according to a researcher in West Virginia.

"Physicians could possibly implement this in their office to aid in distraction during a painful procedure such as injections or dental work," writes Bryan Raudenbush, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University.

"Video games could also be used in waiting rooms to distract patients from upcoming surgical procedures," he continues.

"These gaming distractions may be most helpful in children and young adults undergoing painful procedures or suffering from chronic pain, as these individuals comprise the largest gamer demographics," says Raudenbush, in a news release.

Raudenbush's study was small, so it may not be the last word on the subject. His findings were presented in Lisbon, Portugal, at the Society for Psychophysiological Research Conference.

Pain Test

Raudenbush compared six different types of video games (action, fighting, boxing, mental/puzzle, sports, and arcade).

Participants were 14 men and 13 women; they were about 19 years old. Their pain thresholds, tolerances, and ratings were checked before a pain test.

In the pain test, they dunked their dominant hand (the right hand for right-handed people; the left hand for left-handed people) in very cold water.

Most were assigned to play video games during the pain test. For comparison, others didn't play any video games.

Too Distracted to Feel Pain

Pain tolerance was greatest with the sports and fighting games, the study shows.

"The boxing video game condition was most effective in increasing pain tolerance and reducing participants' ratings of pain," writes Raudenbush.

"Most likely, the boxing and sports video games were effectively distracting the participant to a greater degree. The other video game conditions did not successfully change ratings; therefore, the specific type of game is an important consideration," he continues.

Participants' personalities didn't matter, Raudenbush notes. He calls for more research to figure out how to apply the findings in clinical settings.

Raudenbush reported similar results in a 2003 study on video games and pain.

So the next time you have a root canal, you might find yourself racing a car at the same time.

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