Studio Transcendent partnered with AppliedVR to create a therapeutic experience designed to manage acute pain and reduce stress before a medical procedure, Guided Relaxation provides a peaceful environment with a warm fire, ocean waves, and birds circling in a beautiful sky.
The guided meditation employs elements of this environment seamlessly. As the user follows the path of the birds, they move closer. A calm voice encourages the user to let his or her thoughts go like a spark from the flame, disappearing into the night sky. The sound of the ocean helps lead to deep breathing. The user gazes into the fire and becomes aware of his heart beat.
Patients at the Cedars-Sinai Hospital as well as other medical centers have tested the experience and provided very positive feedback. Research shows that the combination of immersion with interactivity can help to reduce pain up to 70%, and in some studies do as well or better as using morphine. Although originally created to soothe patients in a hospital setting, Guided Relaxation could also prove a valuable tool to help alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, relax before a difficult event, or simply wind down after a stressful day. The experience has recently been used during childbirth as a way to manage pain and avoid medical interventions such as an epidural.
Dr. Brennan Spiegel, MD, MSHS, who has led the implementation of Guided Relaxation at Cedars-Sinai, shared with AppliedVR a particularly moving experience he had with a patient:
I was called to the emergency room to manage a patient who purportedly got food stuck in his throat. Gagging, couldn’t breath, etc. They called us urgently to remove the food, which is something GI doctors do. We ran down and checked on the situation.
It became quite clear that he was, in fact, not gagging on food. He was having an acute panic attack and thought he was choking and gagging. The easiest (and most lucrative) thing to do would have been to rush him upstairs and do an urgent procedure, but it would have been negative.
Instead, I called for VR. Put him in VR… and within 3 minutes he was crying. Tears pouring down his face. He said it was amazing, that he thought all about his life, the people he loves, his well-being, etc. He was transformed. We put him in [Guided Relaxation] and he sat through all 30 minutes, literally while in a gurney in the hallway of the ER (no rooms available at this time). He felt better. No more panic attack. He was just discharged without medications, without a procedure, and avoiding a hospitalization.
Watch this great video featuring Dr. Spiegel and his work, along with excerpts from Guided Relaxation: