Changes ahead for pain treatment

Dr. (Capt.) Joshua Davis
Wiesbaden Army Health Clinic

A U.S. service member is treated with electro acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment for chronic knee pain and to assist with rehabilitation. Treatments like acupuncture, to manage pain, will soon be more readily available at military treatment facilities.     Rebecca Westfall/U.S. Army Medical Command

War hurts, and as a consequence of military service and injuries sustained in combat plus the wear-and-tear of years of active duty training, pain is a reality many servicemen and women endure on a daily basis.

One of the perils of pain is that it can impact a Soldier’s ability to perform his or her warrior tasks and drills. Since pain is so closely tied to readiness, the effective management of pain is mission-essential. And, since failure is not an option, dedicated health care professionals throughout military medicine are tirelessly working to ensure the most up-to-date, evidence-based treatment options are available to our service members as well as their families. From its earliest beginnings, military medicine has pioneered innovations that have changed the way medicine is practiced. Throughout our nation’s warfighting history, medical advancements have been among our most costly yet enduring victories. Today, dedicated military health care providers are rising to meet the unique challenges we currently face. In the recent past, opioid-type medications were routinely and widely prescribed for a range of medical conditions. The unforeseen consequence of over-medicating pain with opioids has been an opioid epidemic: a national crisis that demands our action. The call to change how pain is managed is being met, in part, by a shift in the entire structure of military medicine. On Oct. 1, Defense Health Agency will replace U.S. Army Medical Command. In an effort to ensure mission focus in the delivery of world class health care, new approaches to treatment of pain related to a number of medical conditions — including physical and psychological stress and trauma, migraines and chronic headaches, traumatic brain injuries, degenerative joint disease, neurological disease and cancer — will soon become increasingly available.

If you or someone you love suffers from a painful medical condition, ask your provider at your nearest military treatment facility about the new, alternative treatment options and modalities for healing that are already being rolled out. Among the available options are: acupuncture, biofeedback, functional medicine and physical rehabilitation, as well as techniques of skeletal manipulation and mind-body synchronization, all based on the most current scientific research in the fields of biochemistry and neuropsychology. The evidence is clear: alternative modalities of healing actually work, and where evidence supports broadening options for treatment of pain, we as a nation are investing in making those options available.

Medical care is a journey, and relationships are the foundation. As an family medicine Army physician dedicated to serving those who serve, I look forward to collaborating to meet the specific medical needs of our entire Army Family. Together with service members, their families, and military health professionals, there is an exciting future ahead of us all. While we cannot anticipate every detail of how the journey will unfold, one thing is certain: we will complete the mission: One Team. One Purpose. With Dedication to Others!