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Gaming versus Drugs – Digital Pain Relief

April 1st, 2013 by

Before I get to the key findings, it is probably best to explain how I came to undertake these trials, and the road by which we reached the conclusion we eventually discovered.

It had always appeared to me, that I found the ability to sit down with a glass of wine, put my feet up and fire up my 3DS was a deeply relaxing experience following a hard shift on the wards. It never occurred to me at any point prior, but one night my mind wandered and I postulated. Which of these factors was the core contributor to this feeling; the alcohol? the environment? or was it the entertainment?

Out of curiosity I began to experiment using my better half (with his PlayStation Vita) and my son with his 3DS to find out which was the key component of the experience. Using my family as lab rats, albiet voluntarily, was disconcerting at first but the more results I recorded the more I knew I may be on to a remarkable finding.

Over the course of six weeks, I had both lads play in a variety of locations with different factors involved and I recorded various physical statistics throughout this period. Heart rate, pupil dilation, and reaction to external stimuli were all meticulously recorded and categorised along with the completion of a standard check survey to find out how they themselves felt in their given circumstances.

Putting them in a crowded or noisy environment did lower their survey scores somewhat, and being in a quiet, peaceful and comfortable environment did increase their satisfaction levels, but the interesting fact was the bodily response, as this did not change nearly as much as they perceived they were feeling.

Removing Alcohol from the equation also had minimal impact on their physical and mental scoring, but the most significant drop in both results, was when they were put in these situations without their hardware “distractions”.

I found it fair to summise that the results indicated that the data trends showed that the loss of their entertainment was a far bigger component to their satisfaction levels than environment or pharmacalogical combined.

It was at this point, while having a quick break and poring over the pile of results that I had gathered that Dr Varka happened to question what I was doing. It is to his credit ultimately, that we accomplished everything I am about to detail. He was so amazed and shocked by the results, that he immediately questioned the medical implications of such a finding, and with his contacts I was utterly surprised when I was asked to present my findings to the Board.

I was stunned. At no point had I intended to do anything with these results, but it was apparent that Dr Varka had preferred his opinion and suggested that my results warranted a clinical trial. This, I found out after the meeting with the top doctors of their respective departments, was the core reason for presenting my findings that day.

Everything happened so fast, and with my twenty years of experience as a pediatric nurse and my five years as a midwife had pushed Dr Varka to approach Dr Gull about conducting this trial within the Maternity Ward at Holme Valley Memorial. This provided adequate subjects for my trial as, having one of the largest maternity wards in West Yorkshire.

I began the following day, canvassing each new patient brought to the maternity ward, and talked with them about the work I was doing, and what it involved. Contrary to popular belief, most of these women were in favour of a drug free pregnancy, and by the end of the week I had 16 volunteers, and by timing itself, 5 sets of results to accompany the 5 bouncing babies delivered that week.

By the end of March 2012, four months later, I had recorded the results of 283 participants and had a remaining 17 names on the list. Discussions with Dr’s Varka and Gull, confirmed their satisfaction with 300 unique candidates and as such by April of 2012, I was collating and summarising all of my findings for my medical trial.

I wont link my entire thesis on here, but feel free to read through it at www.health.co.uk/clinicaltrials/nursemjinga/Gamingasanalternativetoepidural.htm for a full breakdown.

So, its the end of the road, and the results are surprisingly fascinating.

Before beginning, placental Syncytiotrophoblast levels were checked for their original endorphin levels for base comparison.

Of the 300 volunteers, 100 opted to have themselves surveyed when under the influence of our standard labour conditions.

100 opted to go completely drug free but utilise a choice of handheld gaming, and the final 100 opted to go completely free of drugs to provide a comparison group.

100 women comparative group

Average pre-contraction comfort level : 7
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 1-:-1
Initiation of Regular contraction comfort level : 6
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 1.2-:-1
Post “show” comfort level : 6
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 1.2 -:-1
Full dilation comfort level : 5
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 1.5-:-1
Passive birthing phase comfort levels : 5
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 1.5-:-1
Active birthing phase comfort levels : 4
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 1.8-:-1
Birth comfort levels : 6
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording 2.0-:-1

In this group, the average comfort level varied as expected during the more difficult and painful sections of birth, and as a direct result, endorphin levels released also made an expected increase, maxing out at two times the Pre-Labour recorded values.

Next up, is the averages for assisted birth.

Average pre-contraction comfort level : 7
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 1-:-1
Initiation of Regular contraction comfort level : 7
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 1.2-:-1
Post “show” comfort level : 6
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 1.2 -:-1
Initiation of Epidural
Full dilation comfort level : 6
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 1.2-:-1
Passive birthing phase comfort levels : 7
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 1.1-:-1
Active birthing phase comfort levels : 6
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 1.2-:-1
Birth comfort levels : 8
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording 1.2-:-1

As you can see, initially the values tally very close to those of the test group, but once the Epidural is introduced, less Endorphins are released to aid the body in blocking neuro-receptors registering the pains of child birth, with the average comfort level actually increasing as the drugs kicked in, and Endorphin levels stabilising almost immediately.

Finally, what you have all been waiting for, the clinical primary group.

Average pre-contraction comfort level : 8
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 1-:-1
Introduction of handheld gaming “placebo”
Initiation of Regular contraction comfort level : 7
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 1.4-:-1
Post “show” comfort level : 7
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 1.5 -:-1
Full dilation comfort level : 6
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 1.7-:-1
Passive birthing phase comfort levels : 7
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 1.9-:-1
Active birthing phase comfort levels : 7
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording: 2.1-:-1
Birth comfort levels : 8
Endorphin levels compared to original STP recording 2.4-:-1

Incredibly, the women who took the “placebo” gaming option, actually produced nearly two and half times as much endorphins as originally recorded, and the average comfort level remained directly comparable to those under the influence of epidural. Not only this, but these women remained more focused, cogent and responsive than their counterpart groups.

As such, I believe this trial does show conclusive evidence, that under certain conditions, and for certain mothers-to-be, gaming placebo’s could be as effective a pain relief as those taking standardised drugs.

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