Virtual Reality Games May Help Relieve Phantom Limb Pain

HealthDay News — Amputees who experience phantom limb pain may benefit from playing a virtual reality game that simulates the movement of missing limbs, according to a study published online December 1 in The Lancet.1

Researchers created virtual limbs for 14 arm amputees via a computer screen and then allowed them to drive a virtual race car. The amputations occurred between 2 and 36 years ago. The study participants had not had success with other treatments.

The researchers asked the participants about their phantom limb pain after the new treatment and found that pain intensity and frequency fell by one-third to one-half. The participants also reported less impact from pain on their day-to-day activities and their sleep.

“The results from our study suggest that it may be useful to ‘exercise’ the phantom limb,” lead author Max Ortiz Catalan, PhD, an assistant professor at the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, said in a journal news release. “Our treatment offers an engaging way to do this while also providing a non-invasive and non-pharmacological treatment, which was found to reduce chronic pain with no observed side effects.”


  1. Ortiz-Catalan M, et al. Phantom motor execution facilitated by machine learning and augmented reality as treatment for phantom limb pain: a single group, clinical trial in patients with chronic intractable phantom limb pain. The Lancet. Dec. 2016. DOI: