Alternative Therapies With the VA

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Alternative Therapies With the VA

Alternative therapies are becoming more and more popular among veterans to manage symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions. While they may offer benefits similar to antidepressants or anxiety medications without side effects or stigma, these approaches have gained a reputation for being effective, often involving physical activities like yoga, exercise, meditation, and animal-assisted therapy.

A growing number of CAM practitioners, particularly psychologists, are incorporating these practices into treatment plans. Some are adding them to traditional treatments that rely on drugs and controlled re-experiencing trauma (exposure therapy). They’re also adding them to programs that incorporate nondrug approaches like exercise, social interaction, and relaxation techniques.

Recently, there has been an uptick in the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Studies have demonstrated that these practices can provide beneficial effects for pain, stress, depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, there is little data on how many Veterans Affairs (VA) patients actually utilize these approaches or whether those with certain characteristics or health conditions are more likely to do so.

Cassler suggests that using these modalities as the primary treatment can reduce the need for other therapies and lower overall healthcare costs. Acupuncture, in particular, can be an effective preventative remedy for PTSD since it alters blood flow to the brain and alters its chemical cascade – leading to reduced morphological changes and avoiding symptoms after trauma.

In addition to acupuncture, other CIH approaches that are typically included in the Veterans Medical Benefits Package include biofeedback, guided imagery, hypnotherapy, meditation, massage and therapeutic yoga as well as chiropractic care. While these modalities are not usually core elements of a medical treatment plan, they can be incorporated in various ways and offered by different types of providers – including volunteers!

Zibin Guo, a medical anthropologist specializing in alternative healing, is teaching people with limited mobility to do tai chi at half a dozen VA hospitals across Florida, Texas, Utah and Arizona. He believes the breathing exercises and mindfulness exercises combined with manageable physical activity can provide relief from various ailments. Furthermore, Guo hopes the practice will reduce drug cravings and improve moods among veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress or other mental health disorders.

Movement therapy methods, also referred to as movement therapy, work by stimulating the nervous system and relieving pain. They may be performed in a quiet setting such as a massage studio or with the patient present.

Though research into their effectiveness is lacking, some veterans who suffer from traumatic brain injury or PTSD are being treated with light-emitting diode therapy. This therapy involves placing a device on the head that emits low intensity LED light and has been demonstrated to improve brain functions such as attention and memory, emotions, and sleep patterns.

The VA offers these complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) approaches to its patients under VA Directive 1137, which requires them to incorporate CIH into all medically necessary services. As a result, VA facilities nationwide have seen an impressive expansion in CIH practices available. However, availability varies by region; for instance, in the Southwest there may be fewer programs due to either lack of space or funding issues.

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- Welcome, SoundTherapy.com lowers anxiety 86%, pain 77%, and boosts memory 11-29%. Click on the brain to sign up or share with buttons below to help others: