For Veterans/Public - Complementary Treatments - VHA Pain Management
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VHA Pain Management


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For Veterans/Public - Complementary Treatments

For Veterans/Public - Complimentary Treatments

This section provides information and links to tools on "Complementary Treatments," for pain manangement, developed for Veterans/Public.

Go to the "Home Practice Exercise" page for a listing of yoga, physical therapy, seated/chair exercises, and tai chi that are on Youtube. 

Complementary and Integrative Health

Complementary and integrative health (CIH) approaches for the treatment or management of pain consist of a variety of things, including mind-body behavioral interventions, acupuncture and massage, osteopathic and chiropractic manipulation, meditative movement therapies (e.g., yoga, tai chi)

Alternative treatments    Stretching
These include acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, meditation, and whole health.   Yoga and tai chi are suggested to stretch and strengthen muscles. 
Acupuncture* -  placement of small needles into the skin at various points in the body. Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA) - an acupuncture protocol where needles are placed in the ear to reduce pain.
Chiropractic Care - hands-on manipulation of the body as a means to properly align the spine and to restore mobility to joints.  VA Chiropractic Care Locations.
Meditation - teaches awareness techniques to relax the body and quiet the mind. Helps reduce pain, improve mood, and decrease stress.
Whole Health - the aim is to help veterans focus on life goals as they work to manage their chronic pain and other ailments. VA Whole Health Site.
Yoga - involves breath control, meditation, and a series of physical poses. Listing of Yoga YouTube Exercises.
Tai Chi - an ancient practice originating in martial arts, this mind-body practice involves both physical and psychological exercises. Veterans Tai Chi for Pain and Stress
Relaxation Treatments - comes in many forms (imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing). These exercises reduce the stress and muscle tension that are common with pain.
Spirituality - the use of spiritual practices in helping patients cope with pain, reduce pain intensity, and lessen the degree to which pain interferes with the activities of daily living.

Behavioral Health Approaches

Behavioral therapies can be used to treat pain. The goal of caring for your mental health is to improve the pain experience and restore function by addressing the cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and social factors that contribute to the stress of pain.

Behavioral therapies
Behavioral therapies can include emotional awareness and mindfulness, or other behavioral interventions.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Acceptance and Commitment Therapy - focuses on changing your thoughts about pain and then helping you adopt positive ways of coping with pain. VA CBT for Veterans Site.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) - is a program designed to teach a skill called mindfulness. MBSR teaches practices that reduce stress and promote health and wellness.
Emotional Awareness and Expression Therapy (EAET) - encourages patients to view their pain as affected by emotional experiences that impact neural pathways in the brain.
Self-regulatory or Psychophysiological Approaches. VA Self-Management Site.
Accpetance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for Pain* - therapy that emphasizes acceptance and mindfulness paired with commitment action to make lasting changes that will improve quality of life.
Biofeedback - used to learn how to control body functions such as muscle tension and other bodily responses to stress.
Clinical Hypnosis - the use of hypnosis for the treatment and alleviation of a variety of physical and psychological symptoms.
Guided Imagery - (a mind-body technique also known as visualization) is a well-recognized and scientifically validated way to relieve pain.

Restorative Therapies

Restorative therapies to treat pain include many different approaches, such as the use of a heating pad or ice pack, exercise, and physical therapy.

 Exercise    Massage   Physcial Therapy (PT) 
Physical activity can help reduce pain and increase mobility. Some examples are gentle aerobic walking, swimming, or cycling.   Therapist can ease pain by relaxing tense muscles and joints, which can relieve stress and anxiety.   A physical therapist can guide you through exercises to preserve and improve strength and mobility.
Therapeutic Exercise: helps people with chronic pain find a physical activity program that is gentle, moderate, and right for the individual. Learn more at the VA Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services site.
Types of physical therapy that may help pain include:
- Cold treatment: ice packs, ice baths, ice massage.
- Heat treatment: hot water baths, heating pads, high-frequency sound waves to produce gentle heat deep in your tissues.
- Gentle stretching
- Muscle strengthening
- Body mechanics
- Vibration therapy: a probe is applied to a part of your body with moderate pressure and vibrated several thousand times per second.
- Traction: PT therapy used for spinal pain
Aqua Therapy - water based type of physical therapy. Exercises are done in a pool usually with the help of a specially trained physical therapist.
Massage Therapy - applying pressure to specific points on the body. It can help reduce stress and muscle tension which can reduce pain.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy that uses low-voltage electrical current for pain relief.
Therapeutic Ultrasound (TU) to deliver heat to deep tissues for improved injury healing.

*Not all therapies are available at all VA Medical Centers, and certain therapies may not be appropriate for all conditions. Talk to your provider to determine which approaches are best for you. If a given therapy is not available at your Medical Center, ask your provider if similar care may be accessed in your community.

Resources - Complementary Treatments

Title & LinkSourceDescription
Traditional Chinese Medicine (pdf)                    Department of Veterans Affairs Booklet about Chinese Medicine that describes approaches to health from a Chinese Medicine philosophy.
Whole Health Workbook (pdf) VA Puget Sound Health Care System -Department of Veterans Affairs A guide to Proactive living and well-being.
Mindfulness Resources  Links to mindfulness resources. Mindfulness can be a helpful tool used to manage pain.
The Free Mindfulness Project * Collection of free-to-download mindfulness meditation exercises.
Free Guided Meditations * UCLA Health Collection of meditation audios.
Mindfulness and Chronic Pain (video) * UMNCSH This YouTube video describes how mindfulness can help with chronic pain.
Mindfulness * Swedish Medical Center Mindfulness stress reduction techniquies and exercises. Instead of focusing on medication, learn how to reduce the stress and you will find you need less medication.
Phone-based Meditation Class on Yoga Sleep(iRest)  Department of Veterans Affairs Yoga “Sleep” Guided Meditation Classes available from home. WRIISC yoga nidra classes are available to all VA enrolled Veterans,
 Whole Health    Proactive Living and Well-Being
Whole health for life website  Department of Veterans Affairs Visit this site to use online resources, tools and other information to support whole health.
Whole health system video series:  Department of Veterans Affairs Watch these brief videos and podcasts to learn more about whole health from other Veterans, VA leaders and clinicians across VA.
Personal health inventory:  Department of Veterans Affairs Think about your health in a new way, focusing on what matters most in life and what brings you joy and happiness. Listen to a podcast about this approach and complete a personal health inventory to identify areas of focus to help you achieve your goals.
Whole Health For Life - Mobile Apps and Online Tools Department of Veterans Affairs Use these web-based and mobile tools to manage pain.
 Other Resources    
All Pain Treatments Practical Pain Management (PPM) Information on: Complementary Treatments, Interventional Pain Management, Manipulation and Massage, Pharmacological, Psychological, Rehabilitation.
Complementary Health Approaches to Chronic Pain * National Institute of Health (NIH) Evidence to support complementary health approaches for different pain syndromes.
"Arthur's transformation"*(video) Never, Ever Give Up. Arthur's Inspirational Transformation! YouTube video

Veteran/Public Pain Management - Resource Topics

 chronicpain  self management medical treatments complementary treatments faqs

Disclaimer: *Links will take you outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs Website. VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked websites.