From War Veterans to Olympic Athletes: How Alternative Pain Management is Changing Lives

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Daymar College

Imagine a 63-year-old war veteran taking morphine three times a day to experience the slightest bit of relief from severe back pain. This was the case for Vietnam War veteran, Arthur Maheu, for five years. After years of relying on medication to ease his pain, Maheu’s doctors opted to use alternative pain management methods to care for his discomfort.

The North Las Vegas VA Medical Center noticed that the reliance on medication for pain was a becoming a trend among their veteran patients, so the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System adopted the Opioid Safety Initiative, or OSI. Now, Maheu’s new non-drug treatment has him feeling better than ever. And the Southern Nevada VA clinics have seen a 14 percent decline in opioid medication use.

Benefits of Massage Therapy Treatment

Studies compiled by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) have shown the proven benefits of using medical massage therapy and other forms of non-drug pain management as an effective way to provide long-lasting relief from chronic pain.

According to the AMTA, “the effectiveness of massage lies in a simple and direct strategy: working from the external, outer mechanisms of pain to the primary, root cause. Massage therapists utilize a holistic approach, focusing on the entire body system and its relationship to soft tissue. Their care isn’t focused only on the site of pain.”

The potential for alternative pain management to be used as a positive, health-conscious way to have relief from chronic pain is the reason why massage therapy has been used for cancer patients, those suffering from post-traumatic headaches and chronic low back pain.

Massage Therapy and Olympic Athletes

Athletes often travel with sports massage therapists, to assist with their recovery phase after training and competing.

In an article with, sports massage therapist Lori-Ann Gallant-Heilborn explains some of her experiences treating U.S. athletes as they prepared for the Olympics.

“When I was in Beijing, [China], I was the massage therapist who was responsible for the men’s volleyball team, but I also helped boxers, swimmers and wrestlers. I see everybody,” she said.

Her duties as sports massage therapist for these Olympic athletes are complex, though.

“You have to know the origins, the insertions and what muscle groups work together…[T]o get muscles to respond the way you want, you need to create cellular communications between the muscles by manipulation of the soft tissue,” Gallant-Heilborn said.

Alternative pain management was utilized by Olympic diver, Kassidy Cook, as she recovered from a shoulder injury and torn meniscus, among other injuries in her journey to the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

“Her daily routine began with a three-hour morning training session followed by Pilates or weight training, three hours of afternoon dryland training and then back home for weight training or massage therapy,” stated an article on

Massage therapy and strength training can go hand-in-hand, making alternative pain management a possible option for any athlete’s journey.

Why Alternative Pain Management is Important

Chronic pain and injuries can happen to anyone, whether it’s war veterans or college-aged Olympic athletes.

Like Gallant-Heilborn said, “it’s an exciting time for sports massage, with collegiate and professional athletes—and their support staff, including athletic trainers, physical therapists and sports-medicine doctors—recognizing the benefits of hands-on health care.”

While massage therapy may not be the answer for all types of pain, and people should consult their health care professionals when it comes to treating pain, it is possible that non-drug treatments can provide an opportunity for any person to find successful alternatives to treating their pain.

Medical massage therapy programs, like the one Daymar offers, can provide students with the opportunity to provide others comfort and relief from pain through medical massage. If you’re ready to get your career in massage started, Daymar College can help!