Physical therapists using virtual reality to combat opioid addiction

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OKLAHOMA CITY - More than 130 people die from an opioid overdose every single day in the U.S. It's a problem on crisis proportions, but one physical therapy center thinks they have an alternative to relieve pain without medication.

“I`ve taken opioid medication in the past and I've just found that it was very difficult to concentrate when I did those sorts of things,” Suzanne Peters said.

Suzanne Peters has chronic pain in her neck and jaw. Something she's had since birth. She turned to physical therapy to help her.

It was a similar situation for Savannah Shades, who struggles with chronic pain in her neck and shoulders.

“Primarily anxiety driven. I've struggled with that since college,” Savannah Shades said.

But today they're trying something new to the state: virtual reality goggles being used in physical therapy facilities.

“Virtual reality gives them an experience, a visual experience of pain information so that they can dial their pain down,” CEO and Founder of Physical Therapy Central Bridgit Finely said.

Physical Therapy Central will have these VR goggles in all of their 29 Oklahoma locations. They believe it's a much more effective method to manage chronic pain than using medication.

“Opioids cover up the pain so it's not an effective way to treat pain, and as you know it's highly addictive and 50,000 people die every year from using opioids,” Finely said.

Savannah was a skeptic at first.

“I`ve never been able to just sit down and focus on one thing. My brain is always going a mile a minute so I was like, 'okay I`ll try the VR goggles just because it sounds cool to do.'"

She says she was surprised to feel so calm, but Bridgit Finely isn't shocked at all.

“By accessing different parts of your brain, you can control your heart rate and your blood pressure, so it only makes sense that you can actually control your pain experience so that's what these goggles teach you how to do,” Finely said.

Promising virtually pain free results.

Physical Therapy Central says the goggles are covered by insurance and you don't need a doctor recommendation to do it.

For more information, click here.

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