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Treating pain through virtual reality

Posted at 4:26 PM, Dec 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-19 16:26:26-05

TAMPA, Fla. -- There is a new type of therapy military veterans are using to reduce pain and it’s based on virtual reality.

James A. Haley Veterans Hospital is the first VA in the country to have a dedicated program.

Army veteran William Sircy thought his days of hiking through the woods were long gone, then he was introduced to virtual reality.

“It transports you to a safe place, that place where everything quiets down and you don’t have to worry about your pain,” said Sircy.

Sircy has been living with chronic pain for the past 15 years due to a spinal cord injury. One visit with recreational specialist Jamie Kaplan changed everything.

“First session I had with Jamie, I came in with a seven or eight pain level and I left with a one. This session, I came in with about a six and I have zero pain right now,” said Sircy.

During the past year, Kaplan has put headsets on hundreds of patients inside James A. Haley Veterans Hospital.

"So, we are looking at managing pain without the use of opioids. Opioids have been a huge epidemic and we at the VA want to be at the forefront of saying, ‘hey, this is not something we advocate and are looking at alternative type health resources,'" said Kaplan.

Vets have the option to choose several different environments and music, all of them with the same goal, to reduce pain, stress and anxiety.

“When you can focus on something positive it takes your brain focus away from focusing on the pain,” said Kaplan.

Kaplan said some of his patients, like Sircy, are even investing in virtual reality inside their own homes.