Integrative medicine in military health offers wide range of services, new study says

A new study evaluating the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) across the military health system shows that the large majority of military treatment facilities offer at least one type of CAM, and an estimated 76,000 military patients receive integrative health services each month, according to a November 13 press release.

The comprehensive, system-wide study entitled "Complementary and Alternative Medicine Services in the Military Health System" details data on the specific types of CAM offered in military treatment facilities across the military health system, the conditions for which they are used, and their level of use. The CAM modalities and practitioners were most commonly used to treat pain, relying most often on acupuncture and chiropractic, and for mental health conditions, using mainly stress management/relaxation therapy and mind-body medicine combinations.

The study also notes that not only are CAM service offerings at military treatment facilities increasing over time, but also the military health system is incorporating the use of integrated health services into its clinical practice guidelines.

"Military health facilities report that they are using these treatments because they've found that they work for specific conditions," says  Patricia Herman, ND, PhD, senior behavioral scientist for the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California, and co-author of the study. "They are one more tool in the tool kit for dealing with issues like chronic pain, and they can offer an alternative to opioid drugs."

Melony Sorbero, PhD, of the RAND Corporation in Pittsburgh, PA, and Ann Sims-Columbia, BSN, MHA, MBA, FACHE, of the San Antonio Military Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas co-authored the study.

The study is available in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.