Under the Department of Veteran Affairs “Health Care Programs Enhancement Act of 2001,” VA Butler Healthcare is one of a few VA facilities to employ an on-site chiropractor, which is good news to Veterans suffering from pain caused by neuromusculoskeletal conditions.
“There are few hospitals in America that have chiropractors on staff,” said Dr. C. William McCaslin, staff chiropractor at the Butler VA. “I was originally hired as a contractor four years ago, but now I am here part of the full time staff. It is important for the VA to have these services because many Veterans have issues that come from their military service.”
Serving in the military is a physically tolling experience. The average Soldier may carry 55 pounds or more of combat equipment in the field on a daily basis. All service members put their body under repeated and continual strain in less than ideal conditions. The body is strained according to Rep. Rob Filner (D-Calif), the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman: over 52 percent of our service members are diagnosed with musculosketal disorders.
“I was taking a lot of pills for my back,” said Nick Malis. A Butler-native, Malis injured his back while deployed as a Marine in Japan. For years, he lived anxiously waiting for his watch alarm to let him know it was OK to take his next dose of pain medication.
“After I started seeing the chiropractor, I have cut my pain meds in half,” said Malis. “The alarm goes off on my watch and I can usually wait another couple of hours.”
Malis is one of many Veterans who are seeing an improvement in their quality of life.
Johnstown-native Zachary “Zack” Hubbard, retired from the Army in 2001. “I had a lot of wear and tear over 24 years,” said Hubbard. “I was taking muscle relaxants for my back that would put me down for a couple of days at a time.”
Suffering from chronic back pain, Hubbard was referred to a chiropractor from his VA primary care doctor. “The service has made my life less painful and increased my mobility. I can rake the leaves around the house now. I have more quality of life now without the pain pills.”
Dr. McCaslin sees the increasing need for chiropractic services for Veterans. “Our Veterans are living longer and some have been suffering 20 years or more with pain. Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have a long life ahead of them too. Here at the Butler VA I can coordinate with the primary care team to restore more function to the body and help reduce their pain.”
The goal, according to Dr. McCaslin, is to “restore the spine to its best possible function.” It is a holistic approach to health which can show results quickly with none of the risks of surgery of drug treatments.
“It changed my life,” said Hubbard. “I just feel better.”