By Bart H. Meijer
AMSTERDAM, March 10 (Reuters) - When the pain gets too much in his left hand, Brian Thompson puts on a virtual-reality headset and jumps into a digital world where he can blast away at little red monsters representing his ailment.
The gear made by Dutch medical company Reducept puts patients in the middle of a computer game. There they can imagine themselves travelling through their own nervous system and using laser guns to target their symptoms.
"This really does help", Thompson, a 63-year-old university lecturer in the Dutch city of Dronten, said.
"After every session I go away with less pain. I really feel the benefit."
Reducept says it has sold the game to 50 Dutch health centres and is doing more research to test its medical use.
Company co-founder Louis Zantema says patients are already reporting that it helps them manage chronic pain.
"If you take enough painkillers it will decrease your pain, but it comes at such a high cost," he told Reuters.
"When we started trials with virtual reality we noticed a lot of positive response."
Pain specialist Christel Perquin said patients had been using the game at the Maxima Medical Centre in Eindhoven where she works.
"It visualises the pain, so people can actively do something about it," she said. (Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Andrew Heavens)