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In VA, complementary and integrative health approaches are most commonly used to help Veterans manage stress, or to promote general wellness. They are also often used to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, back pain, headache, arthritis, fibromyalgia (long-term pain throughout the body), and substance abuse.
One of the greatest challenges in this area of medicine is critically examining popular claims about the effectiveness of therapies that have not been rigorously tested in formal research. VA researchers are committed to filling in scientific gaps. They are conducting studies to determine which therapies are truly safe and effective, and for which conditions and populations they work best.
Meditation could help with cardiovascular risk reduction
Meditation could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. The AHA council, which included several VA researchers, reviewed more than 400 scientific articles on meditation. They found that meditation can have long-standing effects on the brain, which can in turn lower cardiovascular risk. Meditation may be able to help with cardiovascular risk factors such as stress, smoking, high blood pressure, and various metabolic functions. Meditation has low costs and low risks. This means it could be a useful addition to treatments for cardiovascular problems, say the researchers. However, they note that the quality of studies was only modest. More research is needed on meditation and cardiovascular risk, they say. (Journal of the American Heart Association, Sept. 28, 2017)
Yoga could improve adverse effects of menopause
Yoga may reduce vasomotor and psychological symptoms in women going through menopause, according to a Durham VA Medical Center and Duke University review. Vasomotor symptoms (e.g., hot flashes) are related to blood vessel dilation. Searching the available literature, the researchers found one review and three randomized controlled trials on yoga for treating menopause symptoms. The findings suggest practicing yoga reduced vasomotor symptoms and psychological symptoms such as anxiety and mood disturbances, say the researchers. However, they caution that more research with larger numbers and comparison groups is needed. (Complementary Therapies in Medicine, October 2017)
Using mindfulness to combat heart disease in women Veterans
Erica Sprey of VA Research Communications speaks with Dr. Karen Saban, a research scientist at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Chicago. Dr. Saban is currently investigating the ways that stress can cause inflammation in the body, which can potentially lead to inflammatory-related conditions like heart disease. She is currently investigating the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques to reduce the risk of heart disease in women Veterans. (6/14/17)
Study: Yoga helps back pain among Veterans
A study that included 150 Veterans with chronic low back pain found that those who completed a 12-week yoga program had better scores on a disability questionnaire, improved pain intensity scores, and a decline in opioid use. The findings jibe with those from two past clinical trials. (07/25/2017)
Pain in the neck? Caregiver-assisted massage might pose solution
A new VA study is teaching Veterans' informal caregivers how to give massages to ease neck pain. The study is training them to deliver a specific protocol for neck pain in the convenience of the Veteran's home. They receive a four-hour training session that is reinforced with a workbook and DVD to take home. (06/22/2017)
Study: Electroacupuncture eases pain through stem-cell release
A series of tests involving humans, horses, and rodents has provided the most thorough picture yet of how electroacupuncture—a modern version of the ancient Chinese healing art—eases pain and promotes tissue repair. The study included a VA researcher and more than 40 other clinicians and scientists.... (03/16/2017)
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Updated/Reviewed: Jan. 12, 2018