Tulsa Business Uses Virtual Reality To Help People In Pain
The opioid epidemic has hit our state hard, and many doctors are trying to help people find alternative treatments.
A Tulsa business is using virtual reality headsets to help patients relieve chronic pain and maybe eventually get off painkillers.
"I just passed out and just bam, I’m on the floor," said Lee Stidham. "It took me 11 hours to drag myself to my phone."
Lee Stidham fell while she was home alone a few months ago and broke her hip. Since then she's been dealing with chronic pain and has tried everything from pills to physical therapy to now virtual reality treatment.
"My pain was probably a 6, got up to an 8. It’s really, it’s a 3 now," said Stidham.
The virtual reality headset is filled with an immersive 3-D experience that helps patients relax through deep breathing.
“They are in the goggles, they are looking around at things and there’s a doorway, so they open the door and there’s someone there that’s going to describe their pain,” said Redbud Regional Director Amy Malone.
Physical therapists work with patients to determine a plan and how often they want to use the virtual reality treatment.
They say it can also help them be in control of their pain.
"Breathing can lower our heart rate, it can lower our blood pressure as well as can decrease the amount of hypersensitivity of our nerve endings which cause pain," said Malone.
Patients can put the virtual reality goggles on and transport themselves to a place, like the beach or the mountains, where they can be away from their pain.
"Say they want to go to the beach, so they click on the beach and in that beach module, they talk about deep breathing," said Malone.
Malone says they see a lot of chronic pain patients at Redbud and some are being prescribed a lower dose of medication because of the opioid epidemic.
"They can use this to use their breathing, so they can hopefully get off their pain meds," said Malone.
They believe this is another way they can use a non-invasive treatment to help bring relief to patients.
"Anything we can have in our toolbox, that’s going to help them help themselves, help them get better, back to living and doing the things we want to do is what we want to have," said Malone.
Stidham says her primary care doctor heard about the virtual reality treatment and suggested she try it, but says at first, she didn't think it would work.
"I was just sitting there thinking, this isn't working. This isn't working. And then - poof - all of a sudden my pain goes down," said Stidham.
She says she still can't stand to cook, drive or do a lot of everyday things, but she hopes with this new treatment, she will be back on her feet soon.
"I have real hope now," said Stidham.
All 15 Redbud locations have a set of Virtual Reality Goggles, and you don't have to have a prescription to try it.
Learn more about Redbud Physical Therapy.