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Natural Awakenings

Acupuncture in Armed Forces: Pain Relief for Wounded Troops

Apr 01, 2009 03:00AM

The ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture is catching on in the military as a pain treatment for troops wounded in combat. While only a handful of medical centers currently use acupuncture, Walter Reed Army Medical Center has considered it a viable treatment since the 1980s. Now, Andrews Air Force Base, which operates the military’s only acupuncture clinic, is boosting interest by training doctors to take acupuncture into the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a pilot program started in March, the military is preparing 44 U.S. Air Force, Navy and Army doctors to use acupuncture as a part of emergency care in combat and frontline hospitals. Air Force physician Col. Richard Niemtzow developed the battlefield acupuncture method in 2001; based on traditional ear acupuncture, it uses shorter needles, to fit under combat helmets.

Niemtzow says that most of his patients report a decrease in pain within minutes. Acupuncture treatment also allows troops to reduce narcotics prescribed for pain, giving physicians a more accurate assessment of any underlying brain injury. Plus, according to Col. Arnyce Pock, medical director for the Air Force Medical Corps, acupuncture’s pain relief avoids traditional painkillers’ side effects.

Source:, 2009

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