A new investigation concludes that Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA) is effective in relieving pain and can be implemented in the aeromedical evacuation system for wounded warriors. The study notes that the United States Air Force primarily implements pain control through the use of opioid medications in the evacuation system. The study was conducted using Battlefield Acupuncture techniques when transporting wounded warriors from a US medical center in Germany to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. The Battlefield Acupuncture was administered by nurses and physicians to the patients with pain.
Battlefield Acupuncture is a simplified version of auricular acupuncture. Small acupuncture needles are placed on the outer ear tissue. The researchers concluded that it is feasible to train nurses in Battlefield Acupuncture techniques. The medical staff also concurred noting that the application of Battlefield Acupuncture did not interfere with preflight preparations and inflight operations. The patients reported a clinically significant drop in pain levels as a result of the acupuncture. The researchers documented that Battlefield Acupuncture can be integrated into wounded warrior transport without difficulty and has significant clinical benefits in enhancing pain relief.
Acupuncture has a long history in the US military. In 1967, an Army surgeon published an article on the efficaciousness of acupuncture in Military Medicine Magazine. Doctors at Walter Reed Army Medicine Center in Washington have long recommended acupuncture for the treatment of pain due to trauma. Dr. Stuessi, a Navy physician specializing in the treatment of concussions, noted in Stars and Stripes that, “I’ve found phenomenal, off-the-charts results doing acupuncture for sleep, for dizziness and headaches.” Col. Niemtzow began offering acupuncture treatments in 1995 at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. Since that time, he has been running a full time acupuncture clinic at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Recently, the Department of Defense has funded research at the New England School of Acupuncture in Massachusetts. The goal is to determine the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of Gulf War Illness in a double-blind, randomized investigation.
Stephen Burns, Alexandra York, Richard C. Niemtzow, Betty K. Garner, Nancy Steele, and Joan A.G. Walter. Medical Acupuncture. February 2013, 25(1): 48-54. doi:10.1089/acu.2012.0933.