Context: Studies have found evidence for meditation's positive effects on health and well-being, but the difficulty of learning and engaging in meditation practice has been identified as a major barrier. Virtual reality (VR) technology may facilitate meditation practice by immersing users in a distraction-free and calming virtual environment, although this theory has yet to be rigorously tested.
Objective: This study intended to examine the efficacy of VR-guided meditation in a population of US veterans as a tool to facilitate meditation and relaxation practice for reduction of stress and chronic pain as well as to elicit participants' feedback regarding their perceptions of VR-guided meditation.
Design: The research team designed a preliminary study to identify the scope of future investigations.
Setting: The study was conducted at an outpatient polytrauma clinic in a Veterans Affairs (VA) Palo Alto Health Care System, located in Palo Alto, California.
Participants: Participants were a convenience sample of 31 veterans, with an average age of 55.2 years, who were patients at the polytrauma clinic and who had conditions with varying levels of stress and chronic pain.
Intervention: All participants completed a 10-minute, VR-guided-meditation session based on the Zen form of meditation.
Outcome measures: At baseline immediately before and postintervention immediately after the VR meditation session, self-report ratings of pain and stress, physiological measures testing heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP), and participants' survey responses that assessed their experiences with, attitudes toward, and concerns about VR for clinical therapy were obtained.
Results: Participants showed statistically significant reductions in self-reported pain and stress, HR, and systolic and diastolic BP. Participants reported high satisfaction with VR-guided meditation, and few reported negative side-effects.
Conclusions: The study provided evidence for the usefulness of VR technology as a facilitator of meditation practice for reduction of stress and chronic pain. Future studies are needed to examine the long-term effects of repeated VR-guided-meditation sessions for patients with stress and chronic pain.
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