- The Washington Times - Friday, August 11, 2017

Nearly 80 percent of military medical facilities are offering alternative medicines for pain management and psychological treatment instead of opioids when possible, according to a study published Thursday by the nonprofit Rand Corp.

The study reviewed 142 military health facilities across the branches of the Army, Navy, Air Force and the national Capital Region Medical Directorate, which serves active and retired military personnel and their families.

The study said there were about 76,000 alternative therapy patient visits per month treated by 1,750 providers. Services include acupuncture, yoga, relaxation therapy, among others, and responding physicians said patients often express interest and openness to the treatments.

“Patient visits for [complementary and alternative medicine] make up a small but nontrivial portion of total outpatient [military treatment facilities] visits,” the authors wrote.

However, physicians responded that a lack of providers and awareness of these services are barriers to providing care.

The most common conditions these therapies are used for — according to physician responses — include “chronic pain, stress, anxiety, back pain and sleep disturbance.”

Larger facilities and the Army offer the widest range of services, which additionally include chiropractic, stress management, progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback and massage.

These treatments offer “one more tool in the tool kit for dealing with issues like chronic pain, and they can offer an alternative to opioid drugs,” Patricia Herman, the lead author of the study, said in a statement.

“In addition, some of the mind/body practices can be effective for the reduction of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. A patient might not want to admit they have PTSD, but they may be persuaded to take a yoga class,” she said.

The Rand Corp. study recommends that military health care facilities standardize codings for alternative medical practices, to better evaluate and understand their use and impact, and employ providers adequately credentialed and trained in these treatments.

• Laura Kelly can be reached at lkelly@washingtontimes.com.

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