War veterans are taking part in new research to see if complementary medicine helps with chronic pain management.
War veterans are taking part in new research to see if complementary medicine helps with chronic pain management.

Naturopathy, yoga could help veterans with chronic pain

MILITARY veterans who suffer chronic pain are trying acupuncture, Chinese medicine, naturopathy, massage and yoga as part of a new clinical trial being run by Southern Cross University's National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine.

It is the first comprehensive examination of integrative healthcare in military populations in Australia and is being funded by the Defence Health Foundation.

If successful, it could revolutionise military and veteran care in Australia.

The centre's director, Professor Jon Wardle, is leading the trial and said the study hoped to highlight the potential benefits of a complementary approach to the management of chronic pain.

Musculoskeletal and nervous system conditions represent the top 10 health conditions suffered by military personnel, and chronic pain is experienced by nearly half of this population.

"It is helping to bring to patients the potential benefits of an integrative approach that has been proven useful elsewhere but has had problems being adopted into the Australian landscape," Prof Wardle said.

"We are examining whether integrating complementary medicine in real-world military and veteran clinical settings offers clinical improvements, resource or cost-savings or other benefits to individual patients or healthcare organisations.

The trial integrates acupuncture/Chinese medicine, naturopathy, massage therapy and yoga classes alongside usual care, comparing the effects of usual care to an integrated model of complementary medicine alongside usual care.

"We are analysing these complementary therapies against markers such as pain intensity, quality of life, cost effectiveness and safety - among others," Prof Wardle said.

"We already know the benefits of complementary medicine in managing chronic pain.

"Overseas military organisations like NATO and the US Department of Defence recommend inclusion of some complementary medicines in military care on this basis.

Now we are building the evidence base to help inform future policy around military and veteran care here in Australia."