National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

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N C C A M Research Blog

New Initiatives To Address Pain and Other Symptoms in Military and Veteran Communities

August 30, 2013
Kristen Huntley, Ph.D.
Kristen Huntley, Ph.D.

Two winters ago, I was skiing at a local ski area and became intrigued by an activity I saw there. Two groups—Wounded Warrior Project and Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation—were on the mountain that day. They sponsor programs to help wounded service members find ways, through adaptive sports, to ease back into active lives.

Watching them train, I deeply admired the efforts of all involved and felt humbled and impressed by the capacity that some people have to rally after loss, display resilience, and cope when confronted with what could be overwhelming pain, physical disability, or other adversity.

Temperament, cognitive style, genetics, environment, childhood experiences, and protective personal and family resources are likely to be important factors in vulnerability and resilience. There is research evidence indicating that some people can learn skills and employ approaches that appear to enhance resilience and help people cope with loss, traumatic experiences, and to better manage symptoms such as pain that are associated with medical conditions. One of NCCAM’s research priorities is focused on symptom management—specifically, the role of mind-body interventions in managing pain and other symptoms common to many chronic medical conditions.

Over the past 1½ years, NCCAM has had the opportunity to meet with other agencies with shared interests and goals and to collaborate on various initiatives assessing whether complementary health approaches could be helpful in managing some of the symptoms experienced by military personnel and veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

On July 1, we co-issued* three funding opportunity announcements: 

  1. RFA-AT-14-003: Clinical Trials and Interventional Studies of Nonpharmacological Approaches to Managing Pain and Co-Morbid Conditions in U.S. Military Personnel, Veterans, and their Families
  2. RFA-AT-14-004: Pilot and Feasibility Studies of Nonpharmacological Approaches to Managing Pain and Co-Morbid Conditions in U.S. Military Personnel, Veterans, and their Families
  3. RFA-AT-14-005: Health Services and Observational Studies of Nonpharmacological Approaches to Managing Pain and Co-Morbid Conditions in U.S. Military Personnel, Veterans, and their Families

* NCCAM’s funding partners are the National Institute on Drug Abuse (for all three RFAs) and the VA Health Services Research and Development Service (for the third RFA).

The purpose of the new initiative is to generate research on complementary health approaches that could be helpful in managing some of the symptoms experienced by military personnel, veterans, and their families. These efforts, we hope, will eventually result in helping many more “skiers” up and down the hills and mountains that they face.