- Anna Lunaria, L.Ac.
Acupuncture & US Military: Natural Solutions for Soldiers & Vets for Pain Relief & PTSD
Acupuncture has a long history of use in the US military. One of the earliest US military citations about
acupuncture dates back to a 1967 article in Military Medicine after Major Norman Rich, MD and Lt Col Francis Dimond, MD learned acupuncture techniques while serving in Vietnam. (Acupuncture in the U.S. Armed Forces, Medical Acupuncture, Vol 23, 4, 2011: DOI: 10.1089/acu.2011.0835) This predates what is most commonly cited as one of the first introductions of acupuncture to the West, the 1972 Nixon visit to China, when a journalist by the name of James Reston traveling with the President required an emergency appendectomy and Chinese doctors used acupuncture to relieve his pain. The most widely used military specific acupuncture protocol uses auricular acupuncture (ear only) called Battlefield Acupuncture developed by Col Richard Nimetzow, MD, PhD, MPH. Battlefield Acupuncture is used both on and off the battlefield. Other auricular acupuncture protocols have been developed by the Helms Medical institute: Auricular Trauma protocol and PTSD Auricular protocol. The US military provides training for military health care providers in auricular acupuncture techniques. (http://militarymedicine.amsus.org/doi/pdf/10.7205/MILMED-D-13-00075)
In the wake of the opioid and prescription drug over-use epidemic more and more veterans are turning towards acupuncture for relief of both physical pain and emotional distress. In 2011, 26% of all military service members were prescribed one (or more) opioid medication. By 2013 with the increased use of acupuncture, yoga and other alternatives the military decreased opioid prescriptions by 2%. (https://www.army.mil/article/125279/Acupuncture_helping_reduce_use_of_pain_killers_in_Army)
An interesting case study published in Military Medicine by LTC Dean H. Hommer, MC studied the effects of Chinese Scalp Acupuncture (CSA) to relieve pain and restore function in those with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (also sometimes called RSD or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy). This debilitating syndrome can result after surgery or trauma occurring in limbs and is characterized by a failure to respond to conventional treatment with a worsening of pain, typically extremely sensitive nerve pain, swelling (edema), and decreased function and range of motion. Two soldiers who failed to respond to an aggressive regime of conventional treatment were selected to receive Chinese Scalp Acupuncture once to twice per week; both soldiers responded positively experienced a decrease in sensitivity and functional improvement. Importantly, twenty months post treatment both soldiers experienced a sustained recovery. Acupuncture is now being offered at many VA hospitals. Some licensed acupuncturists accept TriWest Healthcare Alliance who have partnered with the VA to provide care for veterans. Yin Rising does not currently accept TriWest but we are happy to a) provide veterans with a SuperBill that can be submitted for reimbursement or b) refer to L.Ac.’s accepting TriWest.