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New Integrative Health Therapies at the Sioux Falls VA

May 25, 2015 12:34PM ● By MED Magazine

By Shirley Redmond

Born out of commitment to provide area Veterans personalized, proactive, and patient-driven care and service, integrative health therapies available at the Sioux Falls VA are designed to help empower Veterans to drive their own health. Many veterans who struggle with chronic pain, anxiety, PTSD, cancer treatment side effects, stress, insomnia, and other conditions can now find relief with few or no medications using integrative health services.

This program began seeing Veterans in June 2014 with the goal of teaching Veterans self-management and self-care skills to improve their quality of life. Current services include integrative health coaching, massage therapy, energy therapy, a mind body medicine group, aromatherapy, yoga/tai chi classes, and acupuncture. In addition, the Sioux Falls VA Medical Center has had chiropractic care since Christopher Pierson, DC, was hired in 2004.

Both VA providers and Veterans have embraced integrative health services, and more than 650 consults have been submitted since the program’s beginning. The majority (over 75%) of the consults are for Veterans who have pain that has been unmanageable with standard treatment.

A Veteran who has battled chronic pain for many years says a few months of integrative healthcare have helped him achieve a level of pain relief and function that he has not had in 19 years of traditional healthcare alone. 

Integrative health services have also helped advance the VA’s overall goal of decreasing Veterans’ use of high risk opioids for chronic nonmalignant pain.  This also helps decrease risk factors for potential negative outcomes, including overdosing, adverse reactions, and mental health complications.

Before beginning services, Veterans are oriented in a group meeting and learn what they can hope to achieve and the requirements of participation. The next step is an intake appointment with the Integrative Health Coach to plan and set goals with possible referral to other therapeutic modalities. Veterans may choose to continue with health coaching after the required visits.

Integrative Therapies at the VA

-    Those who choose massage therapy normally have four therapeutic massages with education specific to their conditions and tools to maintain the benefits at home. This is a bridge to self-care and represents a culture shift for Veterans as well as staff.

-    During acupuncture, Veterans receive a series of four to eight treatments based on the acupuncturist’s plan of care.

-    Veterans also may attend a mind body medicine group once a week for eight weeks where they learn a variety of self-care and stress management techniques including meditation, guided imagery, breathing and movement.

-    Concentrated distilled plant oils used in aromatherapy are designed to promote relaxation and provide relief of pain and a variety of other symptoms.

-    Another lesser-known option is energy therapy, where a provider places his/her hands slightly above or on the Veteran to promote balancing the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Soft music or imagery is sometimes used to help Veterans relax more completely.

Later this spring, Integrative Health plans to move into a new building just for this program. The design and furnishings will create a healing environment for comfort and relaxation. The space will accommodate room for private health coaching appointments, rooms for massage and acupuncture as well as a large room for yoga and tai chi sessions. The new location will also allow VA staff to also expand the therapeutic modalities for Veterans’ growing needs.

Shirley Redmond is Public Affairs Officer at the Sioux Falls VA Health Care System.