Yoga could have added benefits for veterans, improving conditions such as lower back pain, depression, anxiety disorders and insomnia, according to recent report by the Veterans Health Administration.
The report, published April 23 on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ VAntage Point blog, featured data from multiple studies showing how complementary and alternative medicine practices can help veterans. Complementary medicine practices, including meditation and acupuncture are regularly offered in VA medical facilities, according to the VAntage Point blog. A December 2014 study published in the American Public Health Association journal Medical Care showed that 89% of VA facilities offered at least one of 31 types of complementary alternative medicines in 2011, with 29% of military treatment facilities offering 275 such programs in 2012. Complementary and alternative medicine use for veterans or active military members is estimated to be between 27% to 82%, according to that study, which is similar to or slightly higher than the general population.
Evidence map findings, dubbed Yoga for High Impact Conditions Affecting Veterans, recently were presented by an integrated team that included members of the VHA’s Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformatoin in conjunction with the VA Health Services Research and Development division’s Evidence-based Synthesis Program.
The 2014 study also noted an uncertain future for complementary and alternative medicine research, with limiting factors being low levels of funding. But the evidence base for alternative medicine for veterans and military personnel is growing, according to the study.
The VAntage Point blog points to complementary and alternative medicine research underway in the VA — part of a joint strategy of the VA and the National Institutes of Health. The effort includes providing $21.7 million over five years for 13 new projects geared toward treating PTSD, drug abuse and sleep issues without drugs, and instead finding alternatives. Among alternatives slated for research are mindfulness and meditation training, according to the National Institutes for Health.
The research available on complementary and alternative therapies have provided VHA clinicians and staff with vital information on yoga and its positive impacts, according to the blog. The data have allowed for an evidence map addressing four health conditions, including low back pain, prevention of falls, mental illness and insomnia. The VA blog defines yoga as including spiritual, physical and mental health practices.