Immersive Virtual Reality and Chronic Back Pain

  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Tufts University
Updated on 5 July 2022


In the proposed project the investigators will evaluate the feasibility of Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR) and assess the initial effects of IVR on symptoms, affect, and tolerance to cutaneous stimuli. In this single-arm trial, the investigators will recruit 20 adults with CBP. Prior to their IVR experience, subjects will complete multiday baseline assessments using ecological momentary assessment (EMA) methodology to establish typical levels of symptoms and affect. Afterward, in a single experimental session, they will participate in two counterbalanced IVR sessions: one 10-minute and one 20-minute. Immediately after each session the investigators will measure current symptoms and affect using valid and reliable self-report questionnaires, and we will measure changes in tolerance to cutaneous stimuli using quantitative sensory testing. We will measure symptoms and affect for 72 hours after the experimental session using EMA to determine if there is a carryover. At the completion of this study, we will continue to work with stakeholders to develop clinically relevant IVR interventions for people with CBP.


Visit 1-Remote: Consent. Random assignment: Subjects will complete informed consent and data collection of baseline information (demographics, medical history, perceptions of pain, and experiences with VR), surveys on pain, Pain interference, fatigue, and affect. The investigators will also help the participant upload the EMA technology onto their personal phone or tablet. Subjects will then be randomly assigned to receive either the 10- minute IVR session first or the 20-minute IVR session first. Visit 1 will take between 45 and 60 minutes.

Multiple Baseline EMA-Remote: Visit 2 will be scheduled 1-2 weeks later. During the time between visits the investigators will use ecological momentary assessment (EMA) technology to collect multiple measures of pain, fatigue and affect. In EMA subjects respond to prompts delivered through their cell phone or tablet ("pings") with documentation of current symptoms. It is a well-recognized method to capture immediate, synchronized experiences in subjects' natural environments. During this data collection period subjects will be "pinged" 3x daily and asked to rate their current levels of pain, fatigue, and affect. Time to complete these responses will be 15 minutes.

Visit 2-In person: pre Survey/Quantitative Sensory Testing (QST); First VR visit; post Survey/QST. The investigators will collect current pain, pain interference, fatigue and affect, and Quantitative Sensory Testing (QST). QST involves cutaneous (skin) psychophysical (semi-subjective) testing to assess sensory and pain perception pathways. QST quantifies the thresholds of detection of stimuli, the perceived intensity, and the temporal summation (changes in perception over multiple applications). These pain testing procedures are widely-accepted, non-invasive, and non-tissue damaging. The investigators will complete two types QST. Mechanical Pressure Pain Thresholds (MPPTh) will be assessed using a digital pressure algometer on the right upper trapezius and right thumb MP joint. Mechanical Temporal Summation of Pain (MTSP) will be assessed using weighted pinprick stimulators. The investigators will apply a train of 10 stimuli at the rate of 1 per second on the middle finger of the right hand, and subjects will rate the painfulness of the first, fifth, and tenth stimulus. All subjects will take part in two VR experiences (10 min and 20 min) for a total of 30-minutes in VR. After each experience subjects will rate their current pain, fatigue, and affect, and the investigators will complete QST. At the end of both sessions the subjects will rate their experiences of immersion using the Igroup Presence Questionaire, engagement using the Use Engagement Scale (UES), and simulation tolerance using the Simulator Sickness Questionnaire (SSQ). The investigators will also ask a series of open-ended questions about the participant's experiences with IVR and participation in the study. These will include questions about their enjoyment, perceptions of pain, and what they liked/did not like about the IVR experience as well as questions about the burden of being in the study. Visit 2 will take 1.5 to 2 hours

Post Visit 2 EMA-Remote: Subjects will complete three more days (72 hours) of 3x a day prompts for pain, fatigue and affect.

Visit 3-In person: pre Survey/Quantitative Sensory Testing (QST); Second VR visit; post Survey/QST

Post Visit 3 EMA-Remote: Subjects will complete 2 more days (48 hours) of 3x a day prompts for pain, fatigue and affect.

Condition Chronic Back Pain
Treatment Immersive Virtual Reality
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04307446
SponsorTufts University
Last Modified on5 July 2022

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