Veterans: Here’s How You Can Manage Chronic Pain $0.00

Veterans: Here’s How You Can Manage Chronic Pain

By: Morgan Gotthardt | Apr 14, 2020
Veteran’s chronic pain

What is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks, causing sharp, dull, burning, or aching sensations in the affected areas. Untreated and persistent chronic pain can contribute to physical and mental health consequences such as reduced mobility and physical functioning, disturbed sleep, fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, and substance use disorders.

According to statistics gathered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 50% of Veterans have experienced chronic pain above a level four on a scale of 1-10. Back pain is the most common, followed by pain in the legs, arms, neck, and abdomen.

Severe Pain Graph-1Severe Pain Graph-2

Treating Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is challenging to treat given that every individual is different and therefore experiences pain in different ways. Veterans with chronic pain have difficulty functioning in daily life as they may have trouble with activities such as walking, standing, sitting, and sleeping. The disruption in daily life also affects working individuals due to such physical limitations.

However, there are a variety of options available to Veterans including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Medication
  • Alternative pain relief options

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Chronic Pain (CBT-CP)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Chronic Pain (CBT-CP) is an effective intervention to supplement a comprehensive approach to pain management and address the social, psychological, and physical impacts of chronic pain. The treatment equips Veterans with a self-directed, problem-solving approach to manage and decrease the challenges associated with chronic pain.

How Does CBT-CP Work for Veterans?

CBT-CP teaches proven skills for changing thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that affect how Veterans experience pain. The treatment consists of three parts: an interview, an assessment session, and 10 active skills-based therapy sessions. A follow-up session reviews and discusses any areas of difficulty during therapy that could use restructuring. Most CBT-CP is recommended to occur weekly to help maximize benefits.

Watch this video to learn more about how CBT helps Veterans living with persistent pain!

Safe Alternatives for Chronic Pain Management

In addition to CBT-CP, there are several other pain relief alternatives for chronic pain management. These alternatives are strongly recommended to help reduce the need for excessive use of opioids. Many Veterans seek out alternatives such as massage therapy, electrotherapy, exercise, and hot & cold therapy to control chronic pain. Try one of these modalities to live a more pain-free and meaningful life!

exercise

Exercise

Many exercise options are backed by research that shows their effectiveness for chronic pain. Aerobic exercise for the upper and lower extremities help to condition and strengthen the muscles. In addition to low-impact cardio equipment, resistance bands can be used to reduce musculoskeletal pain. Adding exercise to your daily routine can lead to a big change in your pain levels!

Hot & Cold Therapy

Hot & Cold Therapy

Ideal for acute pain, ice reduces inflammation and swelling by decreasing blood flow. The cooling relief of Biofreeze may also help temporarily relieve pain. For chronic pain, heat promotes blood flow and helps muscles relax. The hot packs are designed to warm up tissue before using other solutions like massage or exercise. Alternating the hot and cold applicators might also help reduce exercise-induced muscle pain.

Massage

Massage

Self-massage tools are designed to relieve chronic pain brought on by stress, muscle tension, and poor posture.

Foam rollers allow a deep tissue massage for relief. Use a massage stick afterwards to help target specific areas and trigger points that the foam roller failed to reach.

Modalities

Modalities

Therapeutic modalities, such as NMES and TENS devices, use electrical, thermal, or mechanical energy to help reduce muscle spasms and pain, improve circulation, repair tissues, strengthen muscles, and promote improvements in physical functioning. Performed by PTs and OTs, a hand-held controller is used to adjust the level of stimulation.

Medication

Medication

Non-opioid medications including Motrin, Ibuprofen, Aleve, Exedrin, and other NSAID pain relievers help reduce inflammation whereas Tylenol helps alleviate chronic pain. The active ingredient, acetaminophen, is used to treat mild to moderate pain - from backaches, headaches, and sprains to arthritis.

Health Professionals

A medical professional can help relieve your pain if alternative methods aren’t sufficient. A physical therapist, chiropractor, or massage therapist may be able to help relieve your chronic pain. Contact a medical professional for more pain relief options.

Living with Chronic Pain

The overall proposition of CBT-CP is that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors all influence each other and the outcome of these influences can more or less help Veterans as they work to resolve problems, improve relationships, and live a more meaningful life. Many Veterans can experience other benefits of utilizing CBT-CP including improved mood, sleep patterns, mobility, and reduced irritability. For at-home pain management, try using one of the safe, pain relief alternatives listed above!

If you experience chronic pain, it is important to learn about what is causing your pain and be open to trying new ways of managing your pain such as CBT-CP or any of the other recommended remedies.

To learn more about chronic pain management, visit the following:

References

  1. Anonymous. (2018). Exercise to Help Manage Chronic Pain and/or Fatigue. Department of Veteran Affairs. Retrieved by https://www.warrelatedillness.va.gov/education/factsheets/exercise-to-manage-pain.pdf
  2. Anonymous. (2019). Effects of Chronic Pain on Veterans’ Mental Health. Chisholm, Chisholm, & KilPatrick Law. Retrieved by https://cck-law.com/blog/effects-of-chronic-pain-on-veterans-mental-health/
  3. Murphy, L. Jennifer. (2019). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Chronic Pain Therapist Manual. Department of Veteran Affairs. Retrieved by https://www.va.gov/PAINMANAGEMENT/docs/CBT-CP_Therapist_Manual.pdf
  4. Mikula, John. (2018). Aerobic Exercise Prescription Considerations for Veterans. Scientific Literature. Retrieved by https://scientificliterature.org/Physicalmedicine/Physicalmedicine-18-113.pdf
  5. Graphs pictured above retrieved by National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/pain/veterans

Medical Disclaimer: The information provided on this site, including text, graphics, images and other material, are for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other healthcare professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

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