The Future of Pain Relief

Using virtual reality (VR) to treat pain has delivered exciting results, thanks to research conducted by Dr. Sam Sharar. A professor of anesthesiology and pain medicine at the University of Washington, Sam explains how “pain is all in our heads”: our physical, cognitive, and emotional reactions in the brain combine to tell us we are experiencing pain. The reality of pain is entirely variable, unpredictable, and different for each person, making it hard to manage. Hearing the success of VR in other fields, Sam is now exploring the impact of applying VR to burn patients in an effort to alleviate the excruciating pain of their necessary treatments. The results of his studies are compelling. Getting relief from pain could come from leveraging the brain’s ability to leave the reality of pain for another reality that encourages healing—a promising concept across the field of medicine. Sam Sharar, MD, refers to himself as “an academic anesthesiologist.” He is a board-certified anesthesiologist and cares for seriously injured children and adults at Harborview Medical Center. He is also a Professor of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at The University of Washington. Dr. Sharar teaches and advises medical students as a College Faculty Mentor and is Vice Chair for Faculty Affairs and Development of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine. Additionally, he is the Associate Medical Director for King County Medic 1, where he provides training to paramedics. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Sam Sharar

Full bio

Sign Up For TEDxSeattle News & Special Events!

What is TEDxSeattle?

Seattle, and all the upper left-hand corner, are known for trailblazing ideas put into action. We welcome and champion those who want to challenge the status quo and drive change. TEDxSeattle is a platform that amplifies the ideas of those change makers; a forum to foster new perspectives, and a community committed to challenging its members to be better.