The Army’s surgeon general Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker is leading the way as a powerful advocate for alternative therapies.
“In fact, the use of acupuncture for pain management is almost mainline. We’re now using it in the battlefield, even in the special operations community and other places with much success,” says Lt Gen Schoomaker.
His Army Medical Command has launched an ambitious programme to see what alternative approaches work and to make them a standard of care.
Col.Kevin Galloway chief of staff for the Army’s Pain Management Task Force, points to acupuncture as a safe, proven therapy.
“To ignore it would be the ultimate insanity for us,” he stresses.
“We have patients with real experience with some of these modalities, things that have worked with no side effects, have gotten tremendous benefit from them, and we’ve had to ask ourselves the hard question of why aren’t we able to offer them things that are very low risk and potentially very high yield?”
Lt Gen Schoomaker, who is US Army Medical Command commander, recently hosted an Integrative Medicine Meeting where senior medical and non-medical Department of Defense leaders from across the services reviewed alternative medical practices.
“This is an organized attempt to really look at problems from the ground up and then build an approach that brings in all of these alternative methods of treatment and integrate them around the patient,” said Schoomaker.
Col. Galloway says that much of the push for integrative medicine services has come from Soldiers who have had experiences with alternative care methods and vouch these methods do work in situations such as pain management.
Schoomaker and other MEDCOM leaders like Galloway do not view alternative medicine as a replacement for medications, but as an opportunity to better customize military health care for each patient.
As far back as 2009 Schoomaker addressed the lack of a comprehensive pain-management strategy across the Army, and suggested alternative treatments to medication such as acupuncture, meditation, biofeedback and yoga.
The National Veterans Wellness and Healing Centre in Fort Bragg NC uses techniques like acupuncture, yoga, EFT, Reiki, guided imagery, couples and group counseling, equine therapy and massage.