Australian-first study explores complementary medicine for complex pain conditions in veterans

31st July 2020

Southern Cross University’s National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) researchers are conducting the first comprehensive examination of integrative healthcare in military populations in Australia – a study that hopes to highlight the potential benefits of this approach to the management of chronic pain. Australian veterans are affected by complex pain conditions at a disproportionately higher rate than the general population.

With musculoskeletal and nervous system conditions representing the top 10 health conditions suffered by Australian military personnel, these conditions are often inter-related, with chronic pain experienced by nearly half of this population.

This clinical trial aims to measure the success of integrative approaches in military personnel and veterans with chronic pain.

Professor Jon Wardle, Professor of Public Health and Director of the National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, is leading the trial and said many armed forces across the world now recommend integrative medicine, but Australia had not yet followed suit.

“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,” Professor Wardle said.

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.

Professor Wardle stated, “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."

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