RALEIGH, N.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports nearly 50-million Americans live with chronic pain. And many take opioids to deal with it. Now a new weapon in the fight against pain has some reaching for a virtual reality headset instead of the pill bottle.
Mia Hrabec is doing amazingly well just four months out of spine surgery.
“I had what is called a meningioma which is a benign tumor on my spinal cord,” Hrabec said.
She underwent a five- hour surgery to remove the tumor. But Hrabec was determined not to rely on opioids for pain.
“Pain medication was a concern for me because I have seen the effects on family members and loved ones,” said Hrabec.
Jeff Hathaway, a Physical Therapist and CEO & Founder of Breakthrough Physical Therapy said, “It became the quick fix, give someone a pill, and then they’ll be able to do more.”
Hathway says we were taught the body tells the brain how to perceive pain when the opposite is true.
He said, “The brain decides whether the signal it’s getting is important and whether you should feel pain or not.”
He says the key is giving patients the tools to desensitize their central nervous system and lower their sensitivity to pain.
He’s using virtual reality technology combined with physical therapy to help patients manage pain without pills.
Patients are asked to rate their pain level and concentrate on mindful meditation. Hrabec did the VR sessions pre and post surgery. She only took three of the oxycodones she was prescribed.
Hathaway said, “This is a game changer. We can see a complete elimination or at least a reduction.”
“You can manage your pain without pain medication,” Hrabec told Ivanhoe.
Hrabec is feeling stronger every day and says if she can do it anyone can.
Breakthrough therapy tracked post-surgical patients in the program for one year and found that the cost of care was reduced by 45 percent which meant fewer pain medications and fewer ER visits. The developers of the VR therapy hope to make it part of a physical therapy regimen in centers around the country. Right now, insurance covers the VR sessions as part of a physical therapy program. If used without insurance, the cost is 90 dollars a session. For more information on VR therapy for pain you can visit www.BreakThrough-PT.com
Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Field Producer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, and Editor.
BACKGROUND: Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, morphine, and many others. All opioids are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain. Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, but because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief, they can be misused. An opioid overdose can be reversed with the drug naloxone when given right away. Improvements have been seen in some regions of the country in the form of decreasing availability of prescription opioid pain relievers and decreasing misuse among teens.
VIRTUAL REALITY: Using VR can not only help curtail the use of opioids and other prescription medications, which saves money, it can also reduce the length of hospital stays for some patients. Research suggests that VR can alleviate acute pain from burns, wounds, childbirth, dental procedures and brief surgeries. VR isn’t a silver bullet for pain, but for some patients it can be effective enough to eliminate or mitigate the need to use painkillers.
NEW TECHNOLOGY: Jeff Hathaway, a Physical Therapist and CEO & Founder of Breakthrough Physical Therapy said, “What’s interesting about managing pain over the years is what we understood about pain and what we’re taught about pain in medical school was completely wrong. And about three years ago, I began to realize that when I was sitting through a class on the neuroscience of pain and began to realize, wait a minute, this is completely different. And then when you understand how pain really works and then you look at the opioid crisis and the approach we had with pain it just wasn’t going to get to the cause of the problem. So, we began to go down a road of how can we start changing the dialogue and change how we actually address pain, both acute and chronic or persistent pain?”
(Source: Jeff Hathaway)
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