Thursday, November 6, 2014

Utah Vets Battle Back Against Arthritis: Self-management program gets them moving again

(Salt Lake City) – One in three Utah veterans is fighting a home-front battle with arthritis: of the 53,000 Veterans in Utah, more than 17,000 are currently diagnosed with the disease. A published CDC report shows a higher rate among Veterans than civilians that is likely related to joint injuries incurred during their military service.  The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, most often brought on by joint injury and trauma.

Dave Buchholz of Salt Lake City served in the Army Special Forces as part of an Air Force pararescue team in Southeast Asia from 1971 to 1975. He survived land and scuba jumps with 150 pounds of equipment, and even simulated helicopter crashes.  Dave suffers from PTSD and became addicted to pain killers to help manage his chronic pain. The trauma and impact of the jumps took their toll on his lower back, where joint pain and arthritis led to major back surgery in J

“I had an issue acknowledging my pain level.  I even self-medicated a bit with alcohol. It’s been a challenge. I’m pushing 63 years old, and I’ve got to ask myself, ‘How do I want to live the rest of my life?’”

Dave is living a better life today after taking the Living Well with Chronic Conditions self-management course, a scientifically-proven program that can reduce the adverse effects of arthritis (e.g., pain, poor function, depression) and its comorbidities (e.g., heart disease, diabetes). It’s a resource available to all Veterans.

Living Well with Chronic Conditions is a self-management education course offered throughout Utah that teaches people with arthritis and other chronic conditions how to control symptoms and understand how their health problems affect their lives. The course brings together groups of 10-15 participants who meet for two hours a week for six weeks. The courses are run by lay leaders with relevant health problems of their own. The VA Medical Center in Salt Lake City held its first Living Well with Chronic Conditions workshop in March 2013. Dave attended in April of this year.

“I got the most out of the workshop’s group discussions, learning about dealing with chronic pain and how to set goals.”  Dave’s goals were to stay active throughout the day, hitting the gym five times a week to release natural endorphins and help lessen the pain. “The Living Well workshop gave me the motivation to keep going to the gym. Endorphins free up some of the pain, that’s the good side,” he added. “The down side is that you have to overcome the pain to get to the workout.”

Since his back surgery, Dave has beaten his addiction to pain killers and feels well enough to pursue his interest in music by taking drum lessons. “With my history of addiction, alcoholism, PTSD, and chronic pain, I knew I had to do something to get my mind going in the right direction.”

Dave will be a grandfather for the first time in January. “That’s very motivational for me,” he explains.  “I’m not one who likes to complain. I’m really pleased with the health care I’ve received through the VA. They are great.”

If you are interested in improving the quality of life for a Veteran you know, you can help by letting him or her know about the free Living Well with Chronic Conditions self-management education classes.

For more information about how to manage your arthritis, visit, or contact Christine Weiss, UDOH, at (801) 538-9458 or To sign up for a class at the Salt Lake City VA Medical Center, contact Joan Heusser at 801-582-1565, ext 4246, or

# # #

Media Contact:
Christine Weiss
UDOH Arthritis Program
(o) 801-538-9458 (m) 801-471-8073