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Non-Drug Treatment Options for Managing Pain

service member participating in yoga

Photo by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez

If you’re dealing with physical pain, know you aren’t alone. Military life can be hard on your body. In fact, about half of service members who deployed as part of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have a pain diagnosis. Nearly 30 percent report chronic pain.

Pain can result from injuries that occur when deployed, during training or even at home. Psychological stress can also have an impact on how you feel pain. Although pain is usually treated with medication, talk to your health care provider to see if a non-drug treatment option might work for you. Non-drug treatments can be used alone or to complement the medicines you take.

Managing Pain with CBT

One non-drug option is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can support treatment of many chronic pain conditions like frequent headaches and lower back pain. The goal of CBT is to help you use behaviors and thinking patterns that reduce your sense of pain. Always work with your health care provider to figure out the best treatment plan for you.

CBT can help you manage pain by:

  • Identifying and challenging incorrect beliefs about pain
  • Teaching coping skills like relaxation techniques
  • Learning about the causes and symptoms of pain
  • Assisting with stress management
  • Encouraging goal setting

Throughout treatment, it is important to actively participate in your health care. Be an engaged patient by asking questions, going to appointments and following your provider’s guidance. Your provider may suggest more or alternative types of treatment.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

In addition to CBT, there may be other holistic options to manage your pain without drugs. Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is one such option sometimes used without drugs.

Nearly 45 percent of service members use CAM to treat problems like arthritis or back, neck and joint pain. Some forms of CAM include:

Remember, reaching out is a sign of strength. If you or a loved one needs additional support, contact the Psychological Health Resource Center 24/7 to confidentially speak with trained health resource consultants, call 866-966-1020 or use the Real Warriors Live Chat. You can also visit our “Seek Help, Find Care” page to see a list of key psychological health resources.

Additional Resources

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