No pills, no medication: using virutal reality to treat chronic pain

June 13, 2017: Local doctors are using virtual reality to treat chronic pain.

KNOXVILLE - From a doctor's office to the arctic - Chris Botsos is transported to another world.

“Just went through a tunnel, now its winter time, I see a lot of otters,” described Botsos.

Behind a pair of high-tech goggles, he’s immersed in a virtual reality program called "Cool."

"It’s 3-D, it’s a lot of fun like playing a game,” said Botsos.

But the snowy scenery is much more than a game, it’s an escape.

"What I’m doing right now is really helping, distracting me enough I don't feel any pain right now,” said Botsos.

Botsos deals daily with intense neuropathy pain from a work injury.

"My left foot to the knee is very fragile, very weak, it causes imbalance which causes me to fall," he said.

Once the high tech-goggles go on, everything changes.

"This is very therapeutic,” said Botsos.

"The best relief for pain is not morphine, not fentanyl, its distraction,” explained Dr. Ted Jones. “Distraction works better for pain than anything else and the trick is to have some distraction."

The video-game like experience tricks the brain and makes the pain disappear.

"All the sensations that are going on in your brain are blocking the pain signal from getting into your brain so it cuts pain without effects,” said Jones.

A psychologist at Pain Consultants of East Tennessee, Jones has done clinical trials of the program which showed just five minute sessions cut pain by 50 percent with lingering positive effects.

"It cuts pain, it cuts it down for a day or so then comes back again. There's something that goes on with the brain that the pain doesn't automatically come right back when you take the goggles off,” said Jones.

Botsos said he walked in with a level-five pain scale, and is leaving with a level one.

Jones believes the unconventional treatment could revolutionize the opioid crisis.

"We need to use other treatments for pain besides opiates. The more opiates we use for the number of people who have chronic pain, the more opiates are out in the community and bad things can happen,” said Jones.

For Botsos it's a breath of fresh air, and an exciting discovery for future treatment.

"I’m very, very surprised,” said Botsos. “I thought this would just be fun, not any kind of medicinal benefits, but I was wrong.”

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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