Teesside University forms part of pain relief VR project

A team at Teesside University is part of an international project which uses virtual reality to help people living in persistent pain.

It is hoped that the use of virtual and digital technology could provide additional opportunities to help people overcome life-limiting conditions.

The university is one of the partners in the €2.4 million VR4Rehab project, along with universities, hospitals and industry in the Netherlands, UK, France, Germany and Belgium. The project is funded by the EU North West Europe Interreg programme.

Through the University’s Centre for Rehabilitation, Exercise and Sport Sciences (CRESS) and its Healthcare Innovation Centre (HIC), experts at Teesside are heading up the persistent pain theme of the project.

Teams of digital designers and experts in pain management from across Europe were invited to the University’s Darlington campus to present virtual reality products which could potentially assist people living with persistent pain. Two companies were then chosen as winners and they will now work with Teesside University to help bring the products to market.

The first winners were Get Out, based in Nijmegen, Holland, who have developed a virtual reality game to help people with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is where the nervous system makes an area, such as the arm or hand, painful all the time and patients are reluctant to move that area at all – making it immobile and adding to the pain.

Get Out have used immersive technology to develop a virtual reality game which provides a distraction for people to move their arms and hands without necessarily thinking about it – ultimately helping people to become more active and aiding recovery.

The second winners were SyncVR, from Rotterdam, who are developing a virtual reality platform for the Pain Toolkit, a world-leading website which provides advice and support for people with persistent pain. The platform will allow people from around the world to meet up in a ‘virtual support group’.

Both groups will now work with Teesside University and VR4Rehab partners over the next 18 months to develop their products and get them ready for market.

Professor Denis Martin from CRESS, who is leading the Teesside University work, said: “There have been some really imaginative ideas worked up so far that could make a real difference to the lives of people living with persistent pain. There is a lot of interest in what we are doing from organisations who are involved in pain management.

“Virtual reality technology is something that is developing rapidly and it certainly has the potential to make a positive impact to help people manage and overcome persistent pain.

“The technology is very exciting, but it also has to be useful. By combining the technology with our expertise, we can take full advantage of the increase of virtual reality.”

In addition to the virtual reality products, Teesside University students on the BA (Hons) Comics and Graphic Novels course have produced a number of illustrations to help teach young people about pain management which both winning companies expressed a desire to incorporate into their work.

Professor Martin added: “They were extremely impressed by the illustrations which the students produced and may be able to use them for educational purposes. It is yet another example of how the talent and expertise at Teesside University is making a significant, positive contribution to the far-reaching area of persistent pain.”


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