I have written before about NCCAM’s focus on pain research and the important work we are doing to identify nondrug approaches to pain management as well as to illuminate how pain affects the brain and provide insights that can guide future pain research. I am returning to the topic of pain today because I am pleased to announce the funding of 13 grants exploring nondrug approaches to pain and related conditions in U.S. military service members and veterans.
Pain, particularly chronic pain, is a condition that can defy our best efforts to control it, and while opioids are an important tool in the management of pain, these medications do come with side effects and risks of misuse and abuse. According to the Institute of Medicine, an estimated 100 million Americans are affected by chronic pain; however, this issue is of even greater concern for military service members and veterans. A recent article and accompanying commentary in JAMA Internal Medicine highlight the disproportionate effect of pain among the military, and these findings reinforce the need for additional self-management or other nondrug approaches for pain that complement conventional care and may reduce the need for opioids.
In fact, over the past 2 years, NCCAM has been working with our NIH sister Institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, along with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Health Services Research and Development Service, to develop a collaborative research effort to better understand the burden of pain in the military and address the needs of our active duty military, veterans, and their families in not only managing pain but also grappling with problems that often occur with chronic pain, such as posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. The awarded grants cover a range of research efforts from exploring new self-management approaches to looking at novel technologies and innovative methods for treatment delivery to analyzing data to help us understand more about who is experiencing pain and what approaches they are seeking for relief.
While the goal of this research initiative is to increase the tools that providers and military service members and veterans can use to safely and effectively manage pain, ultimately I see the potential of this research to help all Americans who struggle with pain. I invite you to learn more about this important initiative and the funded grants and to explore the information we provide regarding pain and complementary health approaches.