The next time you have a headache, a Swedish pharmacy wants you to strap on a virtual reality headset and pretend you’re sitting next to a campfire by a lake in Sweden, watching the Northern Lights as night falls.
The pharmacy, Apotek Hjärtat, designed a free VR app for pain relief called Happy Place.
“Pain prevention is not just pharmaceuticals,” says Annika Svedberg, head pharmacist at Apotek Hjärtat. “There are alternative ways to treat pain, for example with exercise or massage. With Happy Place, we wanted to offer people the opportunity to try a completely new way to manage their pain.”
Several independent studies show that virtual reality can help the brain stop focusing on physical pain. One early VR game called SnowWorld helped burn victims reduce the amount of time they spent thinking about pain from 76% to 22%—even when the pain was severe. The VR equipment used in SnowWorldstudies costs tens of thousands of dollars. Now, mass-market headsets are making VR pain relief more accessible.