WASHINGTON The good news in warfare is that more soldiers are surviving serious injuries. The bad news is that more soldiers are living with them.
With more soldiers than ever managing life after amputations and other injury-related conditions, the Army is trying to devise a standard for pain management across the service using everything from drugs to acupuncture to various therapies, said Col. Kevin T. Galloway, the chief of staff for pain management in the Army.
For 200 years, U.S. soldiers relied mainly on morphine to deaden pain.
But commanders are learning that simply trying to snuff out all pain isnt necessarily the right approach, and that the Army needs some guidelines that apply whether a soldier is in a combat zone, on an evacuation flight or in training at a U.S. installation, Col. Galloway said.
A soldier recuperating at home may be able to beat pain with strong drugs, but at a cost to his quality of life.
When the kids come home from school in the afternoon, dads still on the couch, Col. Galloway said.
Instead of trying to knock pain to zero, doctors goal ought to be to maximize soldiers function, while treating pain, he told defense writers at a breakfast.
Fewer than five percent of soldiers who are injured die of those wounds, Col. Galloway said. And while the battlefield has its share of horrific injuries, the majority of injuries suffered by soldiers do not come in battle, he said, but in training or other places.
Pain is a guttural issue for people. If you have chronic pain, youre miserable, he said.
To zero in on a standard, the Army surgeon general in 2009 created the U.S. Army Pain Management Task Force. It visited 28 sites at Army, Navy and Air Force medical centers, as well as civilian hospitals and hospitals run by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
One of the recommendations was to develop a plan for pain management across the military health care system.
The DoD should continue to responsibly explore safe and effective use of advanced and non-traditional approaches to pain management, the task force concluded. It also implored Army officials to work closely with the Veterans Affairs Department so that treatment approaches are consistent across the agencies.
Col. Galloway did not delve into specifics about approaches the Army is taking, but noted that treatments ranging from acupuncture to aroma therapy and massage are already in use. Because of the nature of combat, the military is often at the leading edge of pain management techniques, he said.