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Southern Cross University’s National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) is conducting the first comprehensive examination of integrative healthcare in military populations in Australia.

The study will examine the potential benefits of complementary medicine to the management of chronic pain.

Veterans and chronic pain

Australian military veterans are affected by complex pain conditions at a disproportionately higher rate than the general population, with musculoskeletal and nervous system conditions being commonly reported, and chronic pain being experienced by nearly half of this population.

The new randomised clinical trial, funded by the Defence Health Foundation, aims to measure the success of complementary approaches in military personnel and veterans with chronic pain.

Professor Jon Wardle, National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, SCU

Australia to follow other countries?

Professor Jon Wardle, Professor of Public Health and Director of the NCNM, is leading the trial. He said many armed forces across the world now recommend integrative medicine, but Australia was yet to follow suit.

‘We are examining whether integrating complementary medicine in real-world military and veteran clinical settings offers clinical improvements, resource or cost-savings or other benefits to individual patients or healthcare organisations,’ Professor Wardle said.

The clinical trial integrates acupuncture, Chinese medicine, naturopathy, massage therapy and yoga classes alongside usual medical care, comparing the effects of usual care alone to an integrated model of complementary medicine plus usual care.

‘We are analysing these complementary therapies against markers such as pain intensity, quality of life, cost effectiveness and safety,’ said Professor Wardle.

GO2 Health

The trial is being conducted at the largest veteran health clinic in Australia, GO2 Health at Everton Park in Brisbane’s north. Andy McLintock, a naturopath and veteran himself, is coordinating the trial.

‘GO2 Health provides a suite of therapies, including GP, allied health and complementary therapies – it really puts the veteran at the centre of the care,’ said Mr McLintock.

SCU has campuses in Lismore, Coffs Harbout and the Gold Coast.

Optimism for the future

SCU’s Professor Wardle is optimistic about the study and what it could mean for the future of military and veteran health care in Australia.

‘We already know the benefits of complementary medicine in managing chronic pain. Overseas military organisations like NATO and the US Department of Defence recommend inclusion of some complementary medicines in military care on this basis.

‘Now we are building the evidence base to help inform future policy around military and veteran care here in Australia,’ Professor Wardle said.

If you live in the region and are a veteran living with chronic pain, you may be eligible to participate in this study.

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