Virtual reality therapy aims to reduce opioid dependence

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Hollie Davis said she was open to the idea of incorporating virtual reality into her physical therapy sessions following a motorcycle accident with her husband this Spring.

“It was actually our five-year wedding anniversary,” Davis said. “We were just heading out to get a movie before our daughter’s bus arrived home.”

A driver struck the Davis couple on an off road between High Point and Wallburg, inflicting an injury of broken bones and chronic pain.

April 6th is a day she said she will never forget but is choosing to pay attention to the positives, knowing things could have ended differently if the driver traveled at a high speed.

Finding a new, alternative form of physical therapy through virtual reality is something she said has helped her recovery without developing a dependence on opioids.

“I wasn’t so as concerned about addiction as immunity to medication,” said Davis. “How you think, and guide things can really affect every way of your body mind and soul and so I thought that would be extremely helpful and I was very interested.”

Davis receives the virtual reality sessions before her physical exercise part of therapy at BreakThrough Physical Therapy in Greensboro.

The VR therapy is in the pilot phase at six BreakThrough locations in the Triad and Triangle.

CEO and Founder Jeff Hathaway said the device reflects the change of how medical professionals understand pain over the years the brains ability to help control it.

“Actually, learning how pain works provides you the tools, and in VR, we provide extra tools for the patient for be able to get control over pain,” Hathaway said. “It may not eliminate their pain but the whole idea is let’s get them back to a better life to an active life.”

The virtual sessions are 15 to 30 minutes starting with a pain assessment quiz, information and explains how the body reacts to pain and a guided meditation session with choices of scenic realities.

“We know that the brain becomes highly sensitized to pain and so if we can bring that sensitivity down, then you’re able to do more,” Hathaway said. “It increases their retention of the information and actually runs them through exercises that a lot of therapists maybe aren’t comfortable with; breathing, mediation and mindfulness in the clinic.”

Davis still deals with pain in her lower back and swelling and bruising down her left side but said her range of motion has improved drastically. Davis recalls a recent occasion in which she used the breathing techniques to deal with a painful migraine.

“I actually ended up going to the ER, which I never had to do, and I sat there doing the breathing techniques to try and maintain my sanity because I knew that crying would just make it worse,” Davis said.

Learning how to manage her breath to release the tension of pain has made for a positive step toward healing in mind and body.