USAHC-SB prioritizes chronic pain treatment

| October 11, 2017 | 0 Comments

A team of researchers have been approved for a multi-million dollar research project that is targeting lower opioid prescriptions and incorporating a holistic health care approach. Capt. Angela Weston performs a lumbar manipulation on her patient in order to alleviate the patients lower back pain. Manipulations such as this are only a few of the techniques that are offered to eliminate chronic pain. (Photo by Sgt. Trey Benson, physical therapist tech, U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks)

1st Lt. Jason Kilgore

Schofield Barracks Health Clinic

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Chronic pain and the over-prescribing of opioids are major issues in the Army. Forty-five percent of Soldiers and 50 percent of veterans suffer from pain on a regular basis.

One of the issues is that prescription opioids are really not that effective for managing chronic non-cancer pain, but are often used at the tip of the spear for pain management.

A movement to decrease opioid prescriptions and find a more holistic and effective approach to treating pain is underway.

Col. Deydre Teyhen, commander of U.S Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks, is a member of one of 12 teams that will be ultimately granted a total of $81 million in research grant funding to help advance the science of pain management.

Teyhen is part of a team led by Julie Fritz, PhD, from the University of Utah, and Maj. Dan Rhon from Army Medicine. They received $6.5 million to complete a 6-year study related to low back pain.

The grant is funded by an interagency partnership between National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command’s Clinical Rehabilitation Medicine Research Program, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is known as the NIH-DoD-VA Pain Management Collaboratory.

Fritz and team plan to study a stepped-care management approach to improve care for those with lower back pain. The project will take patients with lower back pain and randomly assign them to either physical therapy or to “Move to Health” holistic intervention. The care will last six weeks and will be followed by an evaluation to determine if additional ‘steps’ in care are needed to prevent the development of chronic pain.

“We are trying to take a really holistic approach,” Fritz said. “We will start with patient education, sleep management, exercise and stress reduction. For those who don’t respond right away, we may move into mindfulness, acupuncture and other non-pharmacological treatments.”

“Move to Health” incorporates the eight pillars of overall health: activity, nutrition, family/social, spiritual, emotional, surroundings, sleep, and personal development.

“By incorporating all eight pillars into our system for health, we are able to look at every approach of the cause of pain and find the best way to treat our patients,” said Teyhen. “By using ‘Move to Health’ we are able to identify additional areas that may either contribute or prevent the recovery from pain that typically has not been blatantly visible.”

The stepped-care management research study stems from a long-standing issue of chronic pain within the military. Traditionally treated with pharmacologically heavy approaches, which have limited efficacy and dangerous long-term effects, the system for health is looking for more effective treatments while limiting the amount of opioid prescriptions.

“We have to remember that pain never starts off being chronic,” said Rhon. “Something happens along the way, and suddenly we have this extremely debilitating condition. We owe our warfighters that are giving everything some better answers.”

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