Posted on Dec 03, 2018

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Veteran "feels like a million bucks" without opioids, with alternative medicine

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) - As some veterans continue to criticize the VA's decision to wean them off opioids, others are finding relief in alternative treatments, including chiropractic care and acupuncture.

At 50 years old, Donavan Jackson says his chronic back pain is much more manageable and no longer debilitating now that he's off opioids. He credits the significant change to alternative medicine, including chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy and acupuncture.

"I feel like a million bucks," Jackson said. "Right away I started feeling a difference."

The Navy veteran says the VA's Choice Program first introduced him to the alternatives. He says after spending a decade on opioids, he took his last dose six months ago.

"You just have to kind of trust it and be open-minded about it," he said about the alternative treatments. "The opioids are nothing but band-aids. They're temporary painkillers."

As Mountain Home VA's cut the number of veterans prescribed opioids in half over the last five years, the facility's encouraged patients to move toward other kinds of therapy. While there are success stories, other veterans have told us alternative medicine hasn't helped them.

Jones Chiropractic reports of the more than 400 veterans who seek chiropractic and massage therapy treatment at its clinic, more than half of those veterans feel better after they leave.

Allen Chiropractic Dr. Briggs Allen said the dozens of veterans who received acupuncture at his clinic last year overwhelmingly felt positive about their experience.

"I would estimate that at least 75% have been pleased with their results," he said. "This is not saying all of their pain has been totally eliminated or their function has been restored to 100%, but that we have reduced their pain levels to being more manageable and improved (activities of daily living) function. All in in all, for the vast majority of our acupuncture patients most are well pleased with their results. Evidenced based acupuncture is not a panacea for all maladies but a realistic option for which there is good scientific justification for treatment for certain conditions."

Jackson says he knows what chronic pain feels like.

"Severe pain robs you of your everyday life," he said. "(My pain was so) severe that it was hard to breathe. I had bags under my eyes. I looked bad."

Thanks to alternative medicine, Jackson says he also now knows what it feels like to live without that severe pain.

"I want to take on the world," he said. "I want to tell everybody. If I know something good that happens in my life, I want to share it with my friends."

While Mountain Home VA's pushed to eliminate opioids, 10% of patients are still prescribed the painkillers, according to federal data.

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