Recent study finds that U.S. troops returning from combat use more than three times the amount of prescription narcotics as civilians. Also more than 40 percent of complain of chronic pain, lasting several months. The Veterans Administration is trying to see if there's a better way to treat chronic pain in vets.
A study in the current issue of the "Journal of the American Medical Association" looks at whether the internet and telephone can make a difference.
Dr. Kurt Kroenke from the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis led a year-long study of 250 veterans with chronic pain. Half of the veterans received usual care from their primary care physicians. The other half received help managing their pain and medications, over the internet or phone, from nurses.
The nurses also talked to patients about their moods and counseled them about things going on in their lives,
The study showed that nearly twice as many vets who received the telecare intervention had less pain over the year. But twice as many people in the usual care group got worse during the same time period.
Dr. Kroenke says, "although one-third of the patients in both groups were on opiates at the beginning of the study, in the treatment group we were able to get twice as many people better with mainly adjusting their medicines, their pain medicines other than opiates."
He says patients in the telecare group were very satisfied with the program and began to see benefits about six months after the monitoring began.