Health Watch: Virtual reality a new pain-relieving method

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- 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."

She underwent a five-hour surgery to remove the tumor, but Mia 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," Hrabec said.

"It became the quick fix, give someone a pill, and then they'll be able to do more," says Physical Therapist Jeff Hathaway.

Hathway says we were taught the body tells the brain how to perceive pain when the opposite is true.

"The brain decides whether the signal it's getting is important and whether you should feel pain or not," Hathaway said.

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 oxycodone she was prescribed.

"This is a game-changer," Hathaway said. "We can see a complete elimination or at least a reduction."

"You can manage your pain without pain medication," Hrabec said.

Hrabec is feeling stronger every day and says if she can do it, anyone can.

The insurance covers VR sessions as part of a physical therapy program. If used without insurance, the cost is $90 a session
Copyright © 2020 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.