Addressing Chronic Pain with Virtual Reality and Biofeedback

Chronic pain can feel overwhelming and unmanageable, but there is a way to tackle it that doesn’t require medication. Utilizing a bio-psycho-social approach to pain management, Flowly delivers a virtual reality platform to take control of your healing journey.

Flowly, who participated in our second cohort of 1501 Health, looks at the full spectrum of chronic pain, and all the comorbidities that come with it.

Common conditions include anything from anxiety and depression to chronic back pain and fibromyalgia. Flowly teaches patients how to holistically address all the factors that come into the chronic pain experience using biofeedback.

Biofeedback allows individuals the ability to see in real-time how their body is doing while also learning how to regulate and modulate it. Breath work and meditation are commonly tapped techniques to help people achieve this and regulate their nervous system.

According to Flowly founder, Celine Tien, these are top-down approaches to pain management. Where Flowly differs is that it combines top-down with bottom-up strategies to provide a comprehensive plan.

“Meditation, mindfulness exercises, talk therapy—those are all what we call top-down approaches, which is starting with your head and your brain to then affect how you feel physically and emotionally,” Tien said.

“People are less acquainted with bottom-up approaches, but they are often easier to access and tap into as a first approach. Biofeedback is one of them, learning how to control your body which then affects how you think and feel.”

Immersive virtual reality experiences in the Flowly app use science-backed workshops, tools and resources that teach you to manage your nervous system. Their experiences are designed and tested for optimal comfort and relaxation, and teach the user how to control various body metrics such as heart rate and respiration.

Healthcare entrepreneurs are actively exploring the use of advanced technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence. The integration of these technologies into solutions that create health equity is a big driver for Flowly and Tien.

“Providers and practitioners are so incredibly important, but access is a problem,” Tien said. “Therapists are in demand, and that’s if you can find one you can afford or takes your insurance. What can digital therapeutics do to close this gap? What is their role in creating more health equity across the system?”

Being a part of 1501 Health reaffirmed for Tien how complex the healthcare system is but also allowed her to seek the connections and understanding she needed to move her business forward. Her advice for other founders looking to build a healthcare start-up is to stay close to the patient, the end user.

“Spend the time, yourself, in the clinics, in the trenches, working with those providers, talking to patients so you actually know what their pain point is,” Tien said. “Oftentimes, what you think is their primary pain point is not in their day-to-day life. You really need to get into the nitty gritty and ask tons of specific questions because a lot of their lived experience is different than what you might see in the data.”


About 1501 Health 

1501 Health is a unique partnership between Healthworx and LifeBridge Health, representing expertise in both health insurance and financing (payers) and healthcare delivery and services (providers). The investment and incubation program empowers entrepreneurs to get their innovative solutions to market and expand their impact in healthcare quality, access and affordability. To learn more about 1501Health, visit 
About Healthworx 
Healthworx operates at the intersection of healthcare and innovation by creating, co-creating and investing in companies that are improving healthcare quality, accessibility, affordability and equity. As the innovation and investment arm of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Healthworx envisions a healthier future for all people by changing the way health works. To learn more about Healthworx, visit 
About LifeBridge Health 
LifeBridge Health is one of the largest, most comprehensive providers of health services in Maryland. LifeBridge Health includes Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, Northwest Hospital, Carroll Hospital, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, Grace Medical Center and related affiliates. For more information, visit