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Virtual Reality (VR) Therapy for IBS

Promising research is highlighted in a recent study conducted by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center investigators which supports the first use case for virtual reality (VR) therapy for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Experts suggest that practicing mindfulness can improve the lives of people who have IBS symptoms such as constipation, toilet anxiety, bloating, abdominal pain, and more.

Gastroenterology problems are ideal candidates for treatment using VR due to the well-documented brain-gut connection, according to Brennan Spiegel, MD, director of Health Services Research for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. His research suggests that this tool can be used to change how IBS patients perceive and respond to their symptoms.

Research also previously demonstrated that gut-directed therapies such as meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and biofeedback can reduce visceral anxiety and improve quality of life. However, these modalities are rarely prescribed due to a lack of trained clinicians in this field. VR is a potential solution that allows patients to self-practice these tools at home in a standardized fashion.

The recent Cedars-Sinai study transported IBS/VR participants into immersive VR worlds that teach patients about these therapies. Designed as a “virtual clinic” that patients can explore to learn coping techniques, the program enables them to visit an “Urgent Care” area to help them manage IBS symptoms or visit a “Skill Center” to hone CBT techniques and develop ways to manage feelings related to their IBS. Patients learn positive strategies to replace unhelpful thoughts and feelings about IBS with more supportive ones.

Much evidence has already shown that VR can help manage mood disorders and pain, and more research is soon expected for GI-specific applications. We are very proud of our colleagues at Cedars-Sinai who are blazing the path forward in this field. We see huge potential in alleviating GI distress with this technology.

Read more about VR for IBS here.


References:
https://www.mdedge.com/gihepnews/article/198770/ibd-intestinal-disorders/virtual-reality-emerges-therapeutic-tool
https://journals.lww.com/ajg/Citation/2022/03000/Qualitative_Validation_of_a_Novel_VR_Program_for.29.aspx
https://virtualmedicine.org/ibsvr

Author
Juelia Fong Patient Care Coordinator

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