The Bayonet

Wednesday, Dec. 05, 2012

Army looks at ways to get handle on pain

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With more than 50,000 servicemen and -women wounded in action, the Department of Defense has the challenge of helping veterans manage chronic pain.

According to the Office of the Army Surgeon General’s final report by the Pain Management Task Force released in May 2010, over-the-counter and prescription medicines is one of the major ways pain is treated. … But, the unintended consequences are drug abuse and diversion.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription opioid analgesics are the most commonly abused prescription drugs in the U.S., with the highest rate of abuse occurring among those ages 18-25.

“For patients interested in treatments other than, or in addition to, medication, complementary alternative medicine is a popular option,” according to the task force’s report. “Though CAM is increasing in popularity among patients, this popularity has yet to result in a parallel increase in acceptance and use with traditional medicine. There is a wide range of these therapies and treatments, such as acupuncture and yoga therapy, that have proven valuable in reducing an overreliance on use of medications to treat pain.”

To that end, Martin Army Community Hospital now has a pain management augmentation team that consists of a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician, physician assistant, clinical pharmacist and nurse care coordinator.

This team will provide current practice updates and assistance to the to the hospital’s primary care physicians on alternative methods of treatment available for patients who suffer with chronic pain, said Lt. Col. Craig Paige, the team’s chief.

Alternative treatments for pain include massage therapy, reiki, acupuncture, tai chi, chiropractic and there will be aquatics therapy when the new hospital opens, said Terry Beckwith, the hospital’s public affairs officer.

This holistic approach, she said, will involve the patient’s family and introduce multimodal alternatives to treat pain.

“Our goal is to reduce the reliance on opiod medications used to treat acute and chronic pain by making adjunctive therapies available to that population of patients who don’t require invasive procedures and is open and willing to try alternative methods,” Paige said. “Many of the chronic pain patients we’ve seen to date don’t want more drugs to treat their pain. They’ve been very receptive to alternative methods to help them feel better.”

For more information, patients should talk with their primary care provider.

Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a series on prescription drugs.

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