The Soothing Sea: A Virtual Coastal Walk Can Reduce Experienced and Recollected Pain is yet more evidence that perhaps we should embrace VR to bolster our clinical effectiveness. The study published in EDRA has demonstrated how using VR technology can reduce pain experienced from procedures. However this wasn’t a ‘typical’ VR study. The participants of this study were entered into two very different environments.
It’s commonplace that when we go on holiday or need a break from the hustle and bustle of a city we go to calm and serene settings. Perhaps a beach, a coastal path or quiet countryside. One is a distracting environment which can be full of stressors, the other is a break from stress and offers a time to reflect and relax. The researchers wondered if being immersed in either of these environments influenced pain caused by a dental procedure.
Which would you prefer, a distracting environment or a calming one?
During the dental procedure those who experienced the coastal walk were in less pain than those experiencing a busy urban environment, or those without VR. This is probably what we would all expect, however it does make you wonder what sort of situation would make the urban VR more effective at reducing pain. Perhaps individual difference, perhaps a different kind of procedure. An event that is less stressful, or less pre-procedure anxiety for example, could favour itself to a more distractable environment.
Either way, as VR is becoming more affordable and accessible, this is yet more evidence suggesting we need to embrace the technology to enhance our effectiveness.