Walter Reed Uses Yoga, Other Therapies to Treat PTSD
May 21, 2008 -- As part of their Specialized Care Program, Walter Reed Army Medical Center is using yoga, individual and group therapy, physical therapy, classes that teach coping strategies, and daily seminars to help service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan deal with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), reports the Washington Post. The program serves up to 120 service members per year, 90 percent of whom suffer from PTSD, and costs about $800,000 annually. That figure includes the salaries for the program's specialists as well as travel and accommodations for the participants.
Yoga was added to the program in 2006 after a feasibility study appeared to yield positive results. Participants who have gone through the program often report to feeling better after sessions, but currently there is little scientific documentation to determine the program's impact.
A recent study from RAND found that of the approximately 1.6 million U.S. military personnel currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly 20 percent suffer symptoms of PTSD. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, about 10 percent to 15 percent of service members in Operation Iraqi Freedom are at risk for PTSD.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after an individual has been through a traumatic event such as a serious car accident, physical or sexual abuse, or military combat. Symptoms of PTSD include moments when the individual may relive the event, suffer persistent nightmares, or night terrors. Often individuals find it difficult to talk about the event, or find themselves in a constant state of hyper-alertness.
Last year the Institute of Medicine released the report Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: An Assessment of the Evidence, which called on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the research community to take steps to strengthen the methodological quality of studies of PTSD treatment with psychotherapy and medication. The report also urged Congress to ensure funding for research to help clinicians better treat different populations of PTSD sufferers.
Also in 2007, a joint IOM and National Research Council report PTSD Compensation and Military Service suggested improvements to the VA's current method of assessing PTSD claimants and determining benefits allocations. Among the recommendations were to develop PTSD-specific disability rating criteria, evaluate how PTSD affects the ability of a veteran to function socially as well in the work environment, and consider the impact of the disorder on the veteran’s quality of life. The report noted that most of the problems with the existing process could be addressed by consistently allocating the time and resources needed for a thorough initial examination of claimants.