Chiropractic in the military is addressing drug abuse for chronic pain and other issues and saving lives with non-drug care
More than 6,000 military veterans lose their lives to suicide each year. The 2019 National Suicide Prevention Annual Report reveals that the suicide rate for veterans is 150% greater than that of adults who have never previously served. Chiropractic in the military is addressing these statistics, fueled by drug abuse, and saving lives with non-drug care.
According to another study released in March of 2020, the answer may lie, at least in part, in providing regular chiropractic care.
Chiropractic in the military: study shows reduced suicide risk
This study was published by the Journal of General Internal Medicine and involved 142,539 active duty Army personnel presenting with chronic pain after serving in Iraq or Afghanistan between 2008-14. Some of the participants received nonpharmacological treatments such as chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, and exercise therapy. Others engaged in drug-based forms of care.
After analyzing the data, researchers noted a connection between chiropractic in the military and other forms of non-drug military care and reduced incidences of self-inflicted injuries, suicide ideations, and suicide attempts.
This is important because prior research reports that chronic pain is the most common condition among Army soldiers utilizing the Polytrauma System of Care within one year of post-deployment. Polytrauma indicates injury to multiple body parts and systems, such as when a soldier is in a blast-related event.
Chiropractic care linked to reduced drug use
This study also noted that active duty servicemembers engaged in nonpharmacological treatments had a reduced level of alcohol and drug disorders. They had fewer incidents of accidental drug poisonings due to opioids, related narcotics, barbiturates, and sedatives as well.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states that more than 1 in 5 veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have substance use disorder. Additionally, those who struggle with alcohol often binge drink, which consists of consuming 2-5 alcoholic beverages within a 1 to 2-hour period of time.
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine adds that overdose from synthetic opioids and heroin have “increased substantially” among veterans in recent years. The use of chiropractic in the military and finding ways to alleviate chronic pain without involving the use of this category of drugs can potentially help to reverse this upward trend.
Treating veteran patients
Providing veteran patients regular chiropractic care may reduce their risks associated with suicide and drug or alcohol use when chronic pain is present. Educate them about the connection to provide hope that alternative treatment options exist. Inform them of all of the benefits of engaging in chiropractic treatment, which includes:
- increased joint mobility;
- improved immunity;
- better sleep and overall health.
You can do this on a one-on-basis every time you treat an active or inactive service member in your office. Another option is to hold a workshop or seminar for veterans in your area. Discuss chronic pain and its effects. Provide at-home exercises they can do to reduce pain or discomfort in their back or neck. Encourage them to develop a consistent chiropractic regimen to enhance this relief.
Addressing U.S. military patients’ mental health
When talking to veterans about their physical health, it may become apparent that their mental health has been affected by serving as well. You may detect a level of depression or anxiety, or they may have been previously diagnosed with PTSD.
Several organizations exist to help address these types of mental health issues. The most well-known is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). If the servicemember has not made contact with this agency, you can go online a do a search for the VA location nearest to you. Provide the patient this information and encourage them to reach out.
The VA website also offers a section dedicated toward veteran training. From this page, users can access information about how to better manage their anger and irritability. It also offers suggestions for how they can improve sleep and tips for being the best parent they can be.
If the veteran has a smartphone, they may want to download an app designed to help them navigate the challenges of civilian life post-deployment. Options available include The PTSD Coach App, a Tactical Breather App, and a Mood Tracker App. The North Carolina Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide offers a list of available apps you can print out and give to veteran patients.
Alternatively, some service members may be more comfortable counseling with a local therapist. Networking with mental health professionals in your area enables you to create a list of experts they can contact if they want someone to talk with. Sometimes just knowing that you care is enough to convince veterans to seek help when they need it.