March 14, 2003 -- Fighting off invaders or playing extreme sports may seem like an unlikely strategy to ward off pain, but a new study suggests that playing active video games may be effective for chronic pain relief. Researchers say that playing an engaging video game may actually distract someone's attention away from a painful activity and help people with chronic pain conditions, especially children.
It's not the first time visual distractions have been shown to increase pain tolerance, but this study compared the effectiveness of different types of video games on perceived pain and also took peoples' game-playing personalities into account.
Researcher Bryan Raudenbush, assistant professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, W. Va., and colleagues measured pain threshold, tolerance, and ratings of 30 adults who participated in either a mental video game, active video game, or nothing at all 10 minutes before a pain test. The participants also completed questionnaires about their competitiveness, aggressiveness, and video game playing habits.
The study found that regardless of the person's personality or gaming experience, playing an active video game reduced their pain rating and increased pain tolerance compared with the other conditions.
The findings are scheduled to be presented later this year at the Conference of the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity, in Savannah, Ga.
Researchers say the study suggests that active video game play may be an effective addition to chronic pain relief techniques for many patients, "regardless of aggressive or competitive tendencies, or prior video game playing habits."