Study to use virtual reality to find real solution to phantom pain

Up to 70 per cent of amputees suffer chronic, phantom pain after losing a limb, but researchers at the University of New Brunswick are trying to do something about it.

At the Institute of Biomedical Engineering, they are studying whether virtual reality can help patients reduce the signals that cause phantom pain.

Jon Sensinger, the institute's associate director, says the research uses sensors, a computer screen and an avatar image of the missing limb.

He says it's similar to conventional treatments for phantom pain but a limited trial had positive results in helping the brain sort out the scattered signals.

The new study is being conducted in eight locations around the world, but the UNB portion is the only one in Canada.

Sensinger says there's a lot to learn about why some people experience phantom pain and others don't, and how different treatments can make a difference.