The Soothing Sea: A Virtual Coastal Walk Can Reduce Experienced and Recollected Pain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Karin Tanja-Dijkstra
  • Sabina Pahl
  • Matthew White
  • Melissa Auvray
  • Jackie Andrade
  • Jon May
  • Ian Mills
  • David Moles

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Plymouth
  • University of Exeter
  • Torrington Dental Practice
  • Queensland University of Technology


Virtual reality (VR) distraction has become increasingly available in health care
contexts and is used in acute pain management. However, there has been no
systematic exploration of the importance of the content of VR environments.
Two studies tested how interacting with nature VR influenced experienced
and recollected pain after 1 week. Study 1 (n = 85) used a laboratory pain
task (cold pressor), whereas Study 2 (n = 70) was a randomized controlled
trial with patients undergoing dental treatment. In Study 1, nature (coastal)
VR reduced both experienced and recollected pain compared with no VR.
In Study 2, nature (coastal) VR reduced experienced and recalled pain in
dental patients, compared with urban VR and standard care. Together, these
data show that nature can improve experience of health care procedures
through the use of VR, and that the content of the VR matters: Coastal
nature is better than urban.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)599
Number of pages625
JournalEnvironment and Behavior
Issue number6
Early online date14 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • pain, virtual reality, nature benefits, costal environment, patient experience