Chiropractic and the Military
Active Duty Military Personnel
Active duty military personnel have an incredible amount of stress placed on their bodies. The increased physical demands borne by those who serve in the military and trauma from everyday activities as a member of the armed forces often leads to injury and chronic pain. Musculoskeletal injuries like low back pain significantly affect the health and operational readiness of active duty military personnel, and are among the most common injuries sustained in and out of combat
So, why is this important?
According to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) research, nearly 25 percent of active-duty military service members had at least one prescription for an opioid at some point in 2017. In the same year, a similar number of military retirees had at least one such prescription. Low back pain is one of the most common reasons armed forces personnel seek medical care and one of the most likely conditions to interrupt combat duty. This severely compromises military readiness, and is where chiropractic care becomes a serious treatment consideration.
In September 2019, the DoD delivered the third of three reports to Congress on clinical trials to determine whether chiropractic care can ease lower back pain in troops and increase military readiness.
The DoD’s bottom line? It works.
The first trial’s conclusion: chiropractic care is a safe and effective consideration for treating lower back pain. Moreover, the third trial concluded that chiropractic care can improve key fitness characteristics among active duty service members suffering from lower back pain, and could lead to greater combat readiness in those individuals.
In 2000, recognizing the value and benefits of the services delivered by chiropractors, the U.S. Congress enacted into law that chiropractic be a permanent benefit within the DoD for active duty military personnel. In 2002, an additional law provided for chiropractic within the U.S. Veterans Affairs health system.
Chiropractors have since been more fully integrated into military and veteran health care facilities. The scope of chiropractic care covers both common and complex neurological and musculoskeletal conditions, as well as some more confounding ailments. Chiropractors, in collaboration with other health care providers, are able to more effectively return injured service members to full duty status.
Chiropractic for Veterans
Military life is fraught with physical challenges. Carrying heavy loads, running with body armor, and jumping out of planes can have long-term effects on a service member’s body. These stresses often lead to chronic conditions that continue to affect veterans across the United States long after their tour of duty has ended. In the case of some of our veterans, this pain can interfere with normal function and the ability to perform daily activities. The VA’s data demonstrates a critical need within the organization for the specific type of care chiropractors specialize in providing. In their report, Analysis of VA Health Care Utilization Among Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) Veterans, the VA cites “diseases of the musculoskeletal system/connective system”, such as back pain, as one of the most common ailments for which Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seek treatment.
Chiropractic helps our veterans control their pain, without the use of drugs or surgery!
The opioid painkillers frequently prescribed to treat chronic pain have contributed to a national crisis, especially for military veterans. Data obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting shows that from 2004 to 2012, VA prescriptions for four of the most common opioids – hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, and morphine – skyrocketed more than 270 percent, and by 2014 the VA had issued approximately 1.7 million opioid prescriptions. The VA is now making it a priority to reduce the use of these potentially addictive medications, instituting regulations requiring treatment for the root cause of pain, not just prescribing more painkillers.
Chiropractic care can be a powerful tool to treat chronic pain. The care provided by chiropractors perfectly complements the VA’s efforts to address both chronic pain and over prescription of painkillers. Chiropractors practice a non-pharmacological, non-surgical approach that provides safe, effective pain control.