Military life requires many mental and physical challenges, far beyond anything that the average civilian even comes close to. For the troops to be in their optimal physical state, they undergo rigorous, regular training of the mind and body. To maintain their overall health, chiropractic care can be a benefit to the troops and veterans. Chiropractic care may both treat existing physical and mental ailments as well as help to prevent future complications and catch injuries early before they progress. Tricare, the military healthcare program, offers the Chiropractic Health Care Program to their active duty members, as well as those in the Reserves and National Guard, at designated facilities. “Chiropractic is a health care discipline, which emphasizes the inherent recuperative power of the body to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery.”1 While there are not yet any commissioned chiropractors in the military, access to chiropractic care has increased in recent years, although even more access would help to “satisfy the demand”.2 In order for the armed forces personnel to perform at their best, and to have overall mental and physical well-being, chiropractic care can still be increased. The armed forces “cannot afford to have soldiers out of work”, according to Sgt. Lynn Grosvenor, DC, RT.3 The World Chiropractor Alliance would like to see the military commission chiropractors in all branches and to “create a Chiropractic Corps providing chiropractic examinations and adjustments”. Just as there is a Dental Corps, distinct from the medical one, chiropractic could also be treated as a separate group. The WCA would also like to see patients in the military have “direct access to chiropractic care” so that other providers are not needed to screen patients first. Currently, chiropractors have to have primary care physicians as a gateway for military personnel.4 There is certainly a need for chiropractic care. Former Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman, the late Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), a “decorated World War II Army veteran” was “concerned about injuries spawned by the weight of gear soldiers carry into combat”. A Johns Hopkins University study found that “musculoskeletal spinal injuries are now “double that of combat injuries” (and have increased over 10 times in the past 4 years). This costs a lot, both in terms of overall health, and in terms of the dollars spent on medical and disability benefits. The loads that the military carries have increased due to equipment and electronics (with heavy batteries).5 Chiropractic care could help to alleviate some of these physical stressors.
Veterans, Family Care, and Research
The Veterans Administration (VA) provides chiropractic care at 26 facilities. This care is provided “in consultation with VA primary care providers”.6 Families are not covered for chiropractic care. There are some chiropractors who offer discounted rates to active duty members and their families, as well as to retired armed forces personnel.7 There are studies being done to show the benefits of providing chiropractic treatment for active duty service people. A large $7.4 million study grant was “awarded by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program” for a four-year project to assess chiropractic effectiveness in treating low back pain, reflexes and reaction time, balance, injury prevention, and strength. The Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research is involved in this study.8
Massage for Military Personnel
Massage is, in many cases, a useful and complementary treatment for patients of all professions who are also pursuing chiropractic care. Both members of the military who do and do not seek chiropractic care for treatment often find themselves receiving physical and mental help from a massage therapist. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is one common disorder that unfortunately afflicts many active soldiers and veterans. The depression and anxiety that can come from suffering from PTSD may be somewhat relieved by care from a massage therapist. Massage also helps to reduce pain and muscle tension, which both occur very often for those in the military. The massage therapist will use long, deep, and slow strokes to release knots in the muscles, allowing the muscles to lengthen and relax back into a functional shape. Swedish massage is one technique for stress relief. This not only helps active duty soldiers but also relaxes those patients who are returning and readjusting to civilian life, which is full of stressors such as finding new work or returning to a previous job, relating to friends and family that they have not seen in a long time, and readjusting to a life that does not have as much structure as military life.9 Those patients who are working in the military or are retired should consider a few things before seeking care from a massage therapy practitioner. Any health conditions should be addressed, and the patient should seek approval from their primary physician before going in for massage therapy. The massage therapist should also look over the patient and decide if massage is the safest, most helpful option for their condition. Patients with PTSD might also consider working with a mental health professional for a while to determine that they are ready for massage. When it is safe to visit a professional, massage can be a great complementary treatment to chiropractic and other natural, alternative care options.10