London, Dec 2 (IANS) Playing augmented reality games like Pokemon Go may help reduce phantom limb pain and improve the quality of lives in people affected by the condition, a study suggests.
Phantom limb pain occurs when amputees experience painful sensations which seem to come from their missing limb.
Most amputees experience some pain after losing a limb, but for some it becomes very severe leading to poor quality of life, worse disability, poorer mental health and greater difficulty in prosthesis use than for amputees without phantom limb pain, the study said.
“Phantom limb pain is a difficult condition to treat that can seriously hinder patients’ quality of life,” said lead author Max Ortiz Catalan, Assistant Professor, Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.
“The study provides a non-invasive and non-pharmacological treatment which was found to reduce chronic pain with no observed side effects,” Catalan added.
In the study, the researchers placed sensors on patients’ stumps to detect muscular activity for the missing arm, signals from which were then fed into a computer to create an augmented-reality arm, representing the missing limb.
Then using the augmented-reality arm — that was shown on a mirror-like display in front of the participant — they could alleviate the pains from a phantom limb.
On average the intensity, quality and frequency of phantom limb pain halved following treatment and improved patients’ daily activities as well as sleep quality — both interrupted by the painful condition, the researchers observed.
Noting that the findings need to be confirmed in a large randomised clinical trial, the researchers pointed out that the treatment would not be suitable for patients with nerve injuries and those who cannot move their stump.
The study, published in the journal The Lancet, involved 14 patients who began experiencing phantom limb pain soon after they had their arm amputated between two and 36 years ago and had not benefitted from other treatments.