Lt. Col. Scott Griffith, MD, and Army’s pain management consultant, quoted in a recent interview, “Chronic pain can be very challenging so we focus a lot on their functionality, being able to restore their function as well as bringing their pain down to the extent that we can. Even for people who cannot have their pain eliminated, many of them can have an improvement in the quality of their life.”
For military healthcare providers, managing acute and chronic pain has become a tremendous problem than ever before. In a June 2014 report in JAMA Internal Medicine, of 2,597 evaluated individuals, researchers found that 44 percent of troops experienced chronic pain symptoms after being deployed for combat while 15.1% of those individuals reported regularly using opioids. Furthermore, Veterans Affairs administrators gave a testimony before a Congress hearing that chronic pain was among the most common medical complication in veterans returning from the last decade of conflict. The frequent cause for chronic pain is due to musculoskeletal injury, which is usually unrelated to battlefield wounds. Causes for musculoskeletal injury include training and job performance with the use of increasingly heavy protective equipment as well as sports and recreation.
The challenge for federal medicine providers still lies on relieving chronic pain symptoms among active duty military members and veterans while also decreasing the chance of opioid addiction and abuse among individuals. In 2003, the Defense & Veterans Center for Integrative Pain Management (DVCIPM) was established to support and regulate pain research and education as well as improving pain management methods. Six years later, the Army surgeon general organized a pain task force membership that included representatives from military services, TRICARE and VHA, to give guidance and approval for a comprehensive pain management strategy. That same task force distributed a report in May 2010 recommending the military to use a holistic, multimodal and multidisciplinary approach to pain management, including complementary and alternative medicine.
Josephine P. Briggs, MD, director of NCCAM, said in a written statement, “The need for non-drug treatment options is a significant and urgent public health imperative. We believe this research will provide much-needed information that will help our military and their family members, and ultimately anyone suffering from chronic pain and related conditions.”
Through the project, the VA will analyze the extent and cost-effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine utilization among veterans being treated at the Veterans Affairs Medical Clinics for musculoskeletal disorder-related pain and other related conditions. On a wider spectrum, changes in drug development are giving clinicians other means to helping active-duty service members and veterans as well as others avoid opioid addiction. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it had approved new labeling for the third extended release opioid analgesic to be approved with abuse-deterrent properties, making them more difficult to abuse orally, which is the most common form of opioid abuse.
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Both acute and chronic pain relating to trauma from an injury, have constantly been a common complication among troops. Fortunately, in recent years, efforts by the United States Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs officials to solve the issue of pain among active duty service members and veterans have started offering a larger variety of non-drug alternative methods. For more information, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at (915) 850-0900.
By Dr. Alex Jimenez
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