The mental picture most people have of veterans is that of brave men and women who faced great personal danger in the name of serving their country.
The unfortunate truth is that most people do not readily understand the number of veterans who suffer from physical or mental issues once they have returned to civilian life.
Veterans and chronic illness
Veterans may be at greater risk than the general population for certain health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and hearing loss.1 This is compounded by the fact that veterans may be suffering from more than one of the problems at the same time, as well as difficulty accessing the VA healthcare system.
Chronic pain, including that of the musculoskeletal system, ranks among the health issues more prevalent in veterans than in the general civilian population. In fact, more than half of veteran’s health visits involve lingering pain in the back, neck, or shoulders. Furthermore, a 2010 study found that 100,000 veterans returning from the first Gulf War reported chronic musculoskeletal pain.1–2 Musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders were the leading cause for medical evacuation of military personnel from Iraq and Afghanistan. Of these soldiers, only 13 percent returned to active duty.3
Chiropractic treatment for veterans
The good news for DCs is that veterans not only have tried at least one complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) modality to treat their pain, but they are also very receptive of adding CAM to their standard medical treatment. A study in the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development found that 82 percent of the 400 veterans in the study reported previous CAM use, and an astonishing 99 percent were willing to try a CAM therapy for their chronic pain.4
Another study in the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development looked at the clinical outcomes for 171 veterans with low back pain who underwent chiropractic care.5 The markers for minimum clinically important difference (MCID) was set at 30 percent for the Numeric Rating Scale (NRS) and the Back Bournemouth Questionnaire (BBQ). On the NRS, more than 60 percent of the patients met or exceeded the MCID, while more than 54 percent of the patients met or exceeded the MCID on the BBQ scale.
Our returning veterans have made substantial sacrifices to their health and well-being to serve our country. It is time for chiropractic to not only help them heal, but to give back for all they have given us.
1 Salamon M. “After the battle: 7 health problems facing veterans.” LiveScience.com. http://www.livescience.com/8916-battle-7-health-problems-facing-veterans.html. Published November 2010. Accessed February 2015.
2 Cook D, Ellingson L, Stegner A. Exercise alters pain sensitivity in Gulf War veterans with chronic musculoskeletal pain. J Pain. 2010:11(8);764–772.
3 In the Face of Pain. “Military/Veterans & Pain.” InTheFaceOfPain.com. http://www.inthefaceofpain.com/resources/pain-topics/pain-populations/military-veterans-pain/?search_term=veterans. Accessed February 2015.
4 Corson K, Denneson L, Dobscha S. Complementary and alternative medicine use among veterans with chronic noncancer pain. J Rehabil Res Dev. 2011:48(9);1119–1128.
5 Chicoine D, Dunn A, Formolo L, Green B. Retrospective case series of clinical outcomes associated with chiropractic management for veterans with low back pain. J Rehabil Res Dev. 2011:48(8);927–934.