Virtual Loving Kindness Meditation and Chronic Pain
The aim of the current study was to examine the effects of a Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) on chronic pain. This study also investigated if a Virtual Reality (VR) meditation and an Audio meditation could have different analgesic effects. As many studies in this area of research have tested mindfulness for chronic pain treatment, the present study attempts to begin to fill the gap in this research, by investigating LKM on chronic pain. No other study has used LKM to test its effect on chronic pain when conducted through VR.
Pharmaceutical treatments are not always sufficient to ameliorate chronic pain and can have negative consequences such as addiction and side effects. Therefore, the need for further investigation of non-pharmaceutical methods for treating chronic pain is becoming more vital. VR and meditation could provide safe treatment methods for pain while avoiding the negative effects of drug therapies. Both meditation and VR have shown promising results as non-pharmaceutical treatments for chronic pain. Research suggests that there is a link between LKM and positive emotions, which according to Gate Control Theory could inhibit the experience of pain. VR could also provide pain relief due to the level of distraction it creates for the user, therefore diverting the individual’s attention away from their pain, and to the VR. This type of meditation was also chosen for this study instead of a mindfulness meditation due to the lower amount of effort needed to manipulate one’s attention, in comparison to mindfulness. This could possibly be better suited towards this population, as chronic pain sufferers may experience concentration and attention difficulties. The present study employed a 2 x 2 factorial experimental design. Participants were females with chronic pain, between the ages of 22 and 63 (N = 12). The participants took part in a LKM either through VR or Audio. Participants completed the Numeric Pain Rating Scale, pre and post meditation to measure their pain levels. Presence was measured using the Temple Presence Inventory after the meditation, to account for the user’s sense of presence being a confounding variable.
Results of a two-way between-within analysis of variance showed a significant decrease in the participants’ pain levels post meditation (p < .001). There was no significant difference between the VR and Audio groups’ pain decrease. There was also no significant interaction between the two independent variables. Presence was not included in the final statistical analysis as a covariate, due to the violation of one of the assumptions of an analysis of covariance.