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Madigan Army Medical Center receives $1 million for study

Combating chronic pain

Dr. Diane Flynn will lead the study on alternative pain management therapies at the Madigan Army Medical Center. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Chronic pain is a brutal experience. How it is addressed is complex and challenging.

Researchers at the Madigan Army Medical Center will soon initiate a study to evaluate new ways of addressing chronic pain courtesy of a $1 million, three-year research grant from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.

"The grant gives us the opportunity to increase our knowledge of pain management to primary care providers," said Dr. Diane Flynn, Madigan's primary care management advisor and Madigan's point person for the study.

"The issue of chronic pain is a national one," Flynn explained.

"Of course in the military, the magnitude of the problem is compounded by deployment related injuries," stemming from combat injuries, the wear and tear from wearing body armor and being jostled in tactical vehicles.

Madigan's Interdisciplinary Pain Management Clinic (IPMC) will collaborate with the University of Washington to study the effect(s) of introducing integrative pain therapies in conjunction with the traditional outpatient functional restoration program.

The integrative therapies are comprised of alternative approaches like acupuncture, yoga and biofeedback.  On the other hand, the functional therapies consist mostly of physical and occupational therapy approaches.

While the IPMC currently offers both the integrative pain therapies and the functional restoration program as separate treatment plans, both Madigan and UW researchers theorize that combining both therapies may yield positive results.

"Our theory is that if we can decrease pain through integrated modalities, patients will be able to engage in a functional restoration program more actively and have better outcomes," Flynn explained.

In other words, the two modalities may be a better medical practice when it comes to managing - or eliminating - chronic pain.

"I think it has application beyond the Army, because if you look at the medical literature, there's very little information about how integrated modalities complement functional restoration," continued Flynn. 

To test this theory, chronic pain patients who are candidates for functional restoration will be asked to participate in the study.

From there, participants will randomly be placed into one of two treatment groups. 

One group of participants will first engage in the integrated therapies before engaging in the more intensive functional restoration program.

Another group of participants will go directly into the functional restoration program.

The focus here is on exploring the theory that the combining of the two approaches - with the integrated therapies used first followed by functional restoration - in treating chronic pain will further the understanding of chronic pain management.

"The goal of the research is to improve soldiers' lives," said Flynn. "We very rarely can eliminate pain when it's chronic; it's more of helping soldiers cope with pain and helping them regain confidence in their bodies' ability to function again."

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