Army looks toward new ways to fight the pain
Soldiers are getting alternative medicine.
By Sig Christenson
Published 01:55 a.m., Monday, September 26, 2011
Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Wright used to jog, walk, lift weights and ride her Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, the motorcycle she bought after serving in Iraq.
Today, she's among a growing legion of war veterans suffering from scleroderma, a painful and potentially fatal disease. Wright, 40, feels pain in her face, joints and toes. She's lost some of her hair, and her toenails fell off.
“It's to the point I want them to deaden the nerves in my face. But (the doctor) said if you do that you take a chance of developing muscle atrophy, Bell's palsy with the real bad facial droop, no muscle control,” she said. “I said I'm willing to take my chances. Just do something about it. It's just consumed me, and I'm miserable.”
Pain pills are part of the treatment, but in her case they don't last long, so an orthopedic physician's assistant last week performed an acupuncture treatment, injecting small gold needles into selected parts of her ear.
Her care is part of the Army's fledgling complementary alternative medicine program, which is testing new therapies, some of them unproven and one literally out of this world.
It's another option for GIs who have returned from combat with pain from a variety of wounds and illnesses, for whom the Army has spent billions on drugs that have resulted in complications, dependency, abuse and even accidental deaths and suicides.
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It's a shame the VA doesn't do more with complementary therapies. At least hire a masseuse if nothing else.
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