Virtual Reality for Pain Management to Tackle the Opioid Crisis


  • Sudarshan Ramanan Boston University Academy
  • Dr. Ajay S Yekkirala Blue Therapeutics, Cambridge, MA, USA



Virtual Reality, Opioid Crisis, Pain Management, Immersion, Efficacy, Design Considerations


The opioid crisis is a serious public health issue of epidemic proportions, building over the past decades. Prescription opioid abuse is one of the key sources of this issue. While pain is usually managed using pharmacological approaches, such as opioids, they produce several unwanted side effects – including respiratory depression and addiction – non-pharmacological approaches can be significant with minimal or no side effects. Recent developments in technology, such as Virtual Reality (VR), show considerable promise for main-stream adoption as one of the non-pharmacological interventions. Preventing a patient’s transition from acute to chronic pain is one instance where VR can presumably be effective. However, challenges remain due to the inherent subjectivity and lack of clear baselines in clinical intervention studies. Here, we review recent studies on the application of VR as a treatment for acute and chronic pain management to primarily understand key technical challenges faced by VR. The secondary goal of this work is to identify possible options to tackle some of the key challenges. Design considerations emerge as one critical component in improving patient engagement.


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Author Biographies

Sudarshan Ramanan, Boston University Academy

Sudarshan Ramanan is a high school senior at Boston University Academy, Boston, MA. He has received awards from the Harvard Global Health and Leadership Conference for his work on the opioid crisis and mental health. He is heavily involved in his school community and is the Secretariat of a Model United Nations conference for middle school students. Over the past years, he has conducted neuroscience research on central nervous disorders and has performed clinical observations of physicians. This past summer, he was a summer intern at Blue Therapeutics with the co-author, Ajay Yekkirala, as mentor. He plans to pursue a career in neuroscience and global health.

Dr. Ajay S Yekkirala, Blue Therapeutics, Cambridge, MA, USA

I am Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Blue Therapeutics in Cambridge MA where we are developing non-addictive analgesics to tackle the opioid crisis. 

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How to Cite

Ramanan, S., & Yekkirala, A. (2021). Virtual Reality for Pain Management to Tackle the Opioid Crisis. Journal of Student Research, 10(1).



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