Chiropractic for Veterans & Active Duty Military

Chiropractic for Veterans & Active Duty Military

            Chiropractic providers know the amazing benefits of chiropractic treatment from musculoskeletal issues to anxiety & PTSD, and for our service men and women, they suffer on a daily basis from these issues. Fortunately, the Veterans Health Administration (VA) now officially recognizes these benefits for our veterans and active duty military members implemented in December 2019. They not only cover chiropractic treatment, but also require 2 clinics with chiropractic care in each Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN). There are currently 70 VA facilities that offer chiropractic care, and they expect that number to go up 50% by the end of 2021. The best part is that if there is no chiropractic care in a VA clinic near the patient, they are able to receive a referral from their VA primary care doctor to see an outside provider.

Chiropractic Benefits for Service Members

            Military service members can benefit from chiropractic treatment in a multitude of ways, and in fact, may benefit from it more than civilians in some aspects as they experience their issues at disproportionate rates compared to civilians. Military personnel often come to us with a unique set of issues that were acquired from years of service and possibly being deployed. The demanding training that is required when entering the military exposes service members to a wide variety of problems.

Veteran & Military Personnel Issues:

  • Mental health disorders

  • Substance abuse disorders

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

  • Traumatic brain injuries

  • Anxiety & depression

  • Musculoskeletal injuries & pain

  • Heart issues from chemical exposure

  • Hearing loss & impairment

It is vital as healthcare providers that we are aware of the patients’ military history especially when it comes to metal health issues such as anxiety and depression. If a patient is exhibiting extreme mental health issues they need to be put through the proper channels of care; 18 to 22 American veterans commit suicide daily, and younger veterans from ages 18-24 are the most at risk. When it comes to service members, we must address their physical concerns, but also take their emotional health into account as well, possibly more so.

Chiropractic care has so many benefits for many of the issues that military personnel face. Everything from their daily routine to deployments to training and continued training while serving all put them at risk that can be addressed by chiropractic treatments.

Chiropractic Benefits:

  • Pain Management – the heavy gear worn sometimes on a daily basis in the armed forces paves the way for back and joint issues, and potentially chronic and more intense pain or even injuries. If at all possible, the patient should see a chiropractic provider before a doctor’s office. So many times with issues involving pain, our service members are prescribed opioids for the pain and sent on their way. However, with many veteran and active duty members having an issue with substance abuse, and should look to other modalities like chiropractic for their pain care. Not to mention that in chiropractic the issue is treated in full, not just masking symptoms like pain medications tend to do.

    • Treatment protocol:

      • Educate the patient about their condition

      • Spinal manipulation or manual therapies can be attempted depending on the extent of the pain and the location. Spinal manipulation has a pain modulating effect on the central nervous system, and can potentially help long-term.

      • Heat, massage, low-level laser therapy

      • At home stretching, massage, exercise, & ice/heat instruction

  • Stress Management – somewhat related to pain management in that it often causes more pain. Additionally, returning to civilian life after a time of conflict or remaining active duty while consistently deploying can put a huge strain on our military patients leaving them with excruciating anxiety and depression.

    • Treatment Protocol:

      • Educate the patient on their condition to prevent/decrease fears, coping methods, and promote self-capability

      • Refer to a mental health provider for cognitive behavioral therapy when appropriate

      • Mindfulness stress reduction with tai chi, yoga, and progressive relaxation.

  • Increased Mobility – many service members, especially veterans, experience aching joints and have a hard time moving about their daily routine. The goal is to improve the ability to perform daily activities and prevent injury by improving muscle strength.

    • Treatment Protocol:

      • Educate the patient on their condition

      • Spinal manipulation – the neurophysiological mechanisms and tissue stretching that occurs during spinal manipulation can increase joint mobility

      • Muscle stretching

      • Mobilization, motor control, and directional preference exercises

      • Home exercise instruction if it is able to be tolerated by the patient

  • Decrease Headaches – military members experiencing stress and musculoskeletal pain often see tension headaches not far behind.

    • Treatment Protocol:

      • Educate the patient on their condition

      • Spinal manipulation to reduce chronic headaches or at the very least reduce the level of pain experienced each time

      • Myofascial therapy

      • Instruction on mindfulness-based stress reduction

  • PTSD – chiropractic reduces the physical pain associated with PTSD so that the patient can begin to mentally heal.

  • Traumatic Brain Injury – chiropractic diagnostic equipment such as a paraspinal infrared thermographic scanner allows for awareness of a variety of areas of neurological function. This will allow you as the chiropractic provider to target treatment where service members need it most to improve quality of life.

Although medications can help decrease the pain of some of the issues that service members face, these medications do not address the underlying issues causing the pain. Finding the cause of the problem, and improving their health and quality of life from the inside out.

Chiropractic Treatment for All Military Personnel

            Studies show that chiropractic has been beneficial to those who serve our country, and that’s no secret as there was a huge push in recent years to get chiropractic finally covered and implemented in the V.A. A study from 2020, Effects of Chiropractic Care on Strength, Balance, and Endurance in Active-Duty U.S. Military Personnel, showed chiropractic to be beneficial not only for strength, balance, and endurance, but also reduced low back pain intensity and disability. If patients are unsure of where to find a VA clinic with chiropractic or see how they can be covered by the VA for services outside the VA should there not be a clinic near them they can visit the VA website for locations and an overview of how to be covered. It is important for us as chiropractic providers to do all we can, and use our collaborative efforts with other providers if need be to help those who serve or have served our country.