Best Life: Virtual reality manages pain without opioids

Best Life: Virtual reality helping ease chronic pain

RALEIGH, N.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports nearly 50 million Americans live with chronic pain, 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, CEO, and 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 said 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 said 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% 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 a session. For more information on VR therapy for pain you can visit

Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Field Producer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, and Editor.

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