Virtual Reality Could Play a Role in the Future of Our Health


This week, I went to Tokyo, saw elephants up close in Africa, flew over New York, and watched a stage show, all in one day.

How was it possible? Virtual reality (VR), of course!

Being unable to play badminton in lockdown has forced my husband to seek competitiveness elsewhere. I grew tired of him constantly asking if we could get a pingpong table in place of our dining table, so because he loves gadgets, we compromised on a VR headset. 

He purchased an Oculus Quest VR headset device, and I must admit I find it fascinating. 

I hate being unable to be with the people I love right now, as I’m sure we all do. I also miss doing fun things like going to the zoo, the cinema, or the mall. Escaping with virtual reality is a great alternative. Visiting elephants, seeing a stage musical up close, and playing virtual sports are the perfect form of escapism.

Initially, I found it challenging to use the virtual “hands” that come with the set, and to move around in a virtual environment, but once I got used to it, it was delightful. 

Users can do so many things in VR, including swimming with sharks, riding roller coasters, seeing musicians, meditating, hanging out at a nightclub, or even floating around in space if you wanted to.

Some studies are looking into whether VR could help people with MS. For example, it’s currently being tested for motor rehabilitation to see if it can lead to improvements in upper limb function, although that study’s data seem to be inconclusive for now.

Until we see a proven connection between VR and improvements in MS symptoms, let’s think about how we might one day use this technology in other ways. 

Imagine in the future that we could do video calls on a VR headset to feel like we’re with the people we love. I’ve been unable to hug my mum since March of last year, and I’m sure many others are in the same situation. Imagine if VR could provide that human connection in a safe environment, free of germs and illness. It would be great to use it when we can’t go outdoors or when we are hospitalized for long periods. 

What if we could use VR to go to neurology appointments without having to be there in person, surrounded by germs and potential viruses? That would be taking telehealth to the next level. 

Maybe one day, VR will be used as a form of physical therapy with trained professionals showing us how to effectively move our bodies. 

Or, imagine doing a VR yoga class where we feel like we’re really in a classroom of people, but in reality, our downward-facing dog is in the comfort of our own homes.

The biopharmaceutical firm EMD Serono studied the use of VR to teach others about MS. Improving MS education is vital, as there is still too little understanding of the disease. The company’s VR program, “MS from the Inside Out,” mimics MS symptoms to provide a sensory-rich immersive environment and to show what happens to the nerve cells of people with MS. 

The power of VR technology is increasing daily, and I believe it will significantly impact our lives in the future. 

VR makes it feel as if we’re in a completely different place, and we can almost forget it’s not real when the headset is on. Taking the headset off and returning to reality is even stranger. 

How do you feel about the future of VR technology? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Jessie Ace
Jessie is the host of the DISabled to ENabled podcast and author of the “ENabled Warriors Symptom Tracker” book. She’s also an illustrator working with MS charities and magazines worldwide. She’s interviewed paralympians, radio DJs, chronic illness bloggers, marathon runners, and more. Jessie, based in the U.K., was diagnosed with MS at 22 years old and was told by a doctor to “go home and Google it” to find out what MS was for herself. Her own experience of being newly diagnosed so young was negative and scary, so she fills the internet with positivity for other anxious MS Googlers to stumble upon.

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