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New business manages pain through science, mind


Aaron Villarreal opened Hygia Pain Institute in Las Cruces last April to provide non-surgical pain management that includes science, technology and even meditation.

Villarreal is a nurse anesthetist and a graduate of the Advanced Pain Management Fellowship at Texas Christian University. That makes him one of only about 50 practitioners in the nation with that background, he said. He also belongs to the nonprofit U.S. Pain Foundation, which was created by people with chronic pain issues.

After graduating from TCU in 2018, Villarreal said he wanted to locate his business in a rural, underserved area where he could “make an impact on the community.” He chose Las Cruces, opening Hygia in suite No. 4 at 3851 E. Lohman Ave., in the complex just east of Jason’s Deli.

“Since we’ve opened, we’ve done a lot of good things,” Villarreal said. The key, he said, is to “get to the root cause” of pain, which might be organ-, nerve- or cancer-related, as well as post-operative or caused by an injury, psychological factors or some unknown cause. Villarreal said pain can manifest in a specific area of the body, like a headache or migraine, backache, muscle or joint (including arthritis) pain, or it may be widespread.

Villarreal uses a variety of treatments to help his patients, including injections, patches, radiofrequency treatment, nerve blockers and even mindfulness meditation. He may also recommend water therapy and/or changes in a patient’s diet.

In addition to examination rooms and a meditation area, Hygia includes a state-of-the-art fluoroscopy suite for “image-guided interventional procedures,” he said.

A physical assessment is the first step to get the right diagnosis and treatment plan for each patient, Villarreal said, including the patient’s age, personal habits, clinical diagnosis, psychological factors and social environment. The psychosocial assessment can be critical to effective treatment, he said, because traumatic life experiences, stress, anxiety, depression and other behavioral health issues can cause or contribute to pain.

Each patient’s treatment plan is “tailormade,” he said, and often involves Villarreal working with other healthcare providers, including primary-care doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors and surgeons.

Villarreal said he accepts most insurance and can work out a payment plan for patients without coverage. “Not having insurance is no reason to be in pain,” he said.

“When I first saw him, I was crying because it hurt. I had a lot of pain,” said Heather Dawson, who first consulted Villareal in late 2019 because of severe rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and other pain issues.

Dawson had to give up her career as a nurse because of her health issues, she said. “That broke my heart. I’ve been disabled since 2015,” she said. “All this time I’ve been trying to find a provider that would listen to me. Aaron is a miracle worker. It was just night and day. I haven’t felt like this in years,” Dawson said. “He will literally look you in the eye and talk to you and he will make notes about everything you’re talking about. It took me five years to get to this point. It’s all because of him.”

In addition to the pain treatment he provided, Dawson said Villareal was able to get her an appointment with a rheumatologist in El Paso, who also assisted in her treatment.

“Mrs. Dawson is an extremely rare and unique case,” Villareal said. “We first came up with a scientific-based approach to decrease the Dilaudid (pain reliever) intake using medications to decrease the chances of withdrawal symptoms and eliminate the opioid-induced hyperalgesia (increased sensitivity to pain). Once this was accomplished, we treated her pain with an opioid agonist/antagonist which has giving her great pain relief.” 

 “She was very motivated on getting well,” Villareal said about Dawson. “Her outcome has been tremendous. This is what I went to school for. She’s been such a rewarding experience,” he said.

For more information, contact Villareal at 575-205-0280 or info@hygiapain.com. Visit http://hygiapain.com/ and on Facebook.


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