Northwestern alumnus provides chiropractic treatments to veterans in chronic pain

Liala Helal | July 31, 2015

A Star Tribune article put Pain Free Patriots in the spotlight for offering free treatments in church parking lots and shopping malls.

After a Star Tribune special series investigated how veterans are left hanging dealing with chronic pain after federal and local policies put a halt on or decreased the ability for them to receive prescription pain medication, the news has turned to those working to relieve veterans’ chronic pain, including Northwestern Health Sciences University.

This week, a Northwestern alumnus, chiropractor Sheldon Osvold was in the spotlight in the Star Tribune, working with a charity, Pain Free Patriots, to provide free relief to veterans in chronic pain. Dr. Osvold is a 1995 graduate of Northwestern Health Sciences University.

The group rolls into church parking lots and shopping malls with mobile trailers equipped with state-of-the-art technology, offering treatments including muscle and nerve therapy, as well as spinal balancing.

According to the Star Tribune article, "Pain Free Patriots offers free relief to veterans in chronic pain":

Organizations like Pain Free Patriots are emerging as the VA struggles with how to handle hundreds of thousands of veterans in chronic pain. Almost 60 percent of veterans returning from the past decade of war list chronic pain as their most common medical problem.

The mobile units of Pain Free Patriots come equipped with over $250,000 in technology. The outside of the trailer is festooned with nearly as many sponsors and corporate logos as a NASCAR team.

Potential clients must show evidence of military service, either their discharge papers or a military identification, and fill out a one-page questionnaire about their ailments. Few are turned away. The vets are provided grants that average about $5,000 for their treatments, which usually run several times a week for about three months.

Chiropractor Sheldon Osvold, who works with the program, said the advanced technology and protocols allow him to pinpoint treatments and speed recovery.

“For me, it’s a way of helping somebody who is underserved,” he said. “Not necessarily that they don’t have adequate care, just that they don’t get this type of care and this allows them to have access to it at a reasonable rate. I can’t take away that you were blown through a wall and you’ve got some significant structural damage, but if I can make your life as pain free as possible, that’s my goal.”

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Neil Krenz, who retired as a captain with the Minnesota National Guard, made his way to the Pain Free Patriots trailer parked next to the ­Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park.

Krenz was deployed to Iraq with the Guard in 2005 and served 12 years in the military. He never suffered any traumatic injury. Instead, the constant wear and tear of carrying 50 pounds of Kevlar plates and helmet left him with sharp pains in his neck and shoulders, coupling a pre-existing abnormal curvature of the spine with degenerative disc disease. The VA wanted to prescribe painkillers, but he resisted. The VA offered him chiropractic care, but would authorize only four visits.

“We all know that isn’t enough to scratch the surface. You are just getting started at four sessions,” Krenz said. He’s participated in the Pain Free Patriots program for more than a year, including twice-a-week sessions for the first four months.

“The everyday stress seemed to be lifted,” he said.

Ron Green, a Marine veteran who served during the Vietnam War era, gets treatment for foot problems that had nearly prevented him from walking. Green, who also has type II diabetes, said he was in tremendous pain with feet that were bleeding in June when he began treatment, but now his pain has all but gone away.

“It’s totally life changing,” Green said, adding that he stopped taking pain medication two weeks earlier. He says his doctors at the VA, who had once talked about the possibility of amputating his foot, are amazed by his progress.

“They just went nuts, they couldn’t believe it,” he said.

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