Caring for our Military: Nondrug Therapies for Pain

October 27, 2019 Joe Brady

Nowhere is controlling pain a more pressing issue than in the military. Since time immemorial soldiers have suffered chronic pain long after the battle is over. Many times the pain lingers for the rest of their lives. In traditional Chinese medicine, martial artists tended to be specialists in pain. Both in inflicting it and also in relieving it. Currently, the U.S. military after long relying on deadly opioids to deal with pain is beginning to look for nondrug therapies for pain. Read on to find out more about the militaries use of acupuncture and the science behind it.

The US Military is beginning to make greater use of the ancient Chinese medicine technique of acupuncture. In an article from Military Times, the military is increasingly using a form of acupuncture dubbed “battlefield acupuncture” for its effectiveness as well as it’s ease of use, low cost and most importantly the fact that it is nonaddictive and not potentially fatal as are opioid medications. Medics across the military services are learning the technique.

Read more from Military Times

Learn more about acupuncture anesthesia in surgery watch the video

Integrative Medicine Research Lecture Series

Pain and Opioid Management in Veterans: Evidence, Lessons Learned, and Future Directions in the Use of Collaborative and Integrated Care Approaches

Speaker: Dr. Karen Seal, Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco
Dr. Karen Seal is a professor of Medicine and Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). She is based at the San Francisco VA Health Care System (SFVAHCS) where she is the director of the Integrated Care Clinic for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans and Director of the Integrated Pain Team (IPT) Clinic. In these roles and as a practicing primary care internist and health services researcher, she has dedicated her career to developing and testing new integrated care interventions to address comorbid mental and physical health problems, including chronic pain and opioid misuse, among veterans. Currently, she is the prinicipal investigator (PI) of two pragmatic effectiveness trials testing the implementation of telephone motivational coaching, in one study to achieve engagement in mental health treatment among rural veterans (“COACH”) and in the other (“OPTI”), decreased reliance on prescription opioids among veterans with chronic pain. She has assumed the role of co-PI on a recently funded nine-site national Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) study, which is a comparative effectiveness trial of an integrated pain team approach (modeled after the SFVAHCS IPT Clinic) versus telephone collaborative management to improve pain and decrease opioid use among veterans who use the VA. This past year, Dr. Seal was appointed chair of the SFVAHCS Integrative Health Advisory Committee to promote the development of complementary and integrative health services for veteran patients and VA staff in her system. In this capacity, through VA clinical funding, Dr. Seal and her colleagues have been gradually building complementary and integrative health capacity at the SFVAHCS, which includes system-wide training in VA Whole Health personalized health planning and coaching and supporting mind and body skills training for VA staff. Dr. Seal and colleagues hope to leverage this clinical funding as well as her group’s prior research experience to conduct a large-scale implementation-pragmatic effectiveness trial of the VA’s Whole Health Team Model in veterans with chronic pain. 

Watch the lecture on Pain and Opioid Management in Veterans.

Watch the lecture at NIH Videocast 

Mary Jo Larson, Ph.D., M.P.A., will provide an introduction to the U.S. Military Health System and the treatment of pain in that setting, including recent innovations. Trends include movement toward a culture of pain awareness, expanded use of nondrug treatments, and a full continuum of best-practice pain services. These changes are in line with the report of the Pain Management Task Force convened in 2009 by the U.S. Army Surgeon General, which provided more than 100 recommendations on a holistic, multidisciplinary, and multimodal strategy to manage pain. Dr. Larson will also discuss her research study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) on the characteristics and clinical needs of U.S. Army soldiers returning from deployments, the types of treatments (drug and nondrug) that they receive and the associated outcomes.

Speaker: Mary Jo Larson, Ph.D., M.P.A., Senior Scientist, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University

Watch the lecture at NIH Videocast