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Battlefield acupuncture offers alternative pain relief for deployed service members

Retired Col. Richard Niemtzow, Air Force Acupuncture Clinic director, shows observing healthcare professionals how to properly apply the acupunture needle into Master Sgt. Michelle Tancrede’s, 779th Aerospace Medical Squadron mission operations NCO in charge, ear during the battlefield acupuncture course here Aug. 12. Battlefiled acupuncture is a simple easy to use technique that offers fast and effective pain relief. (U.S Air Force photo/ Bahja J. Jones)

Retired Col. Richard Niemtzow shows observing healthcare professionals how to properly apply the acupunture needle into Master Sgt. Michelle Tancrede's ear during the battlefield acupuncture course Aug. 12, 2011, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Battlefiled acupuncture is a simple, easy-to-use technique that offers fast and effective pain relief. Niemtzow is the Air Force Acupuncture Clinic director and Tancrede is the 779th Aerospace Medical Squadron mission operations NCO in charge. (U.S Air Force photo/ Bahja J. Jones)

Public Health Service Capt. Darrell Singer Office of the Secretary of Defense with the National Institute of Health from the Pentagon, alongside Col. Sal Lombardi, Joint Force Headquarters Maryland National Guard state surgeon practice placing acupuncture needles into oranges during the battlefield acupuncture course at the Acupuncture Clinic here Aug. 11. . Battlefiled acupuncture is a simple easy to use technique that offers fast and effective pain relief. (U.S Air Force photo/ Bahja J. Jones)

Capt. Darrell Singer (left) and Col. Sal Lombardi practice placing acupuncture needles into oranges during the battlefield acupuncture course Aug. 11, 2011, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Battlefiled acupuncture is a simple, easy-to-use technique that offers fast and effective pain relief.Singer is assigned to the Office of the Secretary of Defense with the National Institute of Health at the Pentagon and Lombardi is assigned to Joint Force Headquarters Maryland National Guard state surgeon. (U.S Air Force photo/ Bahja J. Jones)

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. (AFNS) -- Officials from the Malcolm Grow Medical Center Acupuncture Clinic held a battlefield acupuncture course Aug. 11 for military medical and other healthcare professionals to learn the innovative pain relief technique.

Rather than service members opting for pharmaceutical drugs with possible adverse side effects that could affect job performance or duty abilities, battlefield acupuncture may be an effective alternative for treating mild to moderate pain.

Retired Col. Richard C. Niemtzow, the Air Force Acupuncture Clinic director, developed the technique in 2001. Acupuncturists place small gold, titanium or stainless steel semi-permanent needles in various pressure points within the ears to relieve pain, Niemtzow said. The needles interrupt the process of pain in the central nervous system to either temporarily or permanently relieve pain over time.

"The whole idea behind battlefield acupuncture is to find a rapid technique that would be simple to use for all types of pain," Niemtzow said.

During the four-hour course, service members learned the fundamentals and application techniques, and performed the technique on actual patients.

After practicing placement of the acupuncture needles on oranges, the group located pressure points on each other as Niemtzow observed. Once they showed proficiency with placement, they were able to perform the technique on patients.

Master Sgt. Michelle Tancrede, the 779th Aerospace Medical Squadron mission operations NCO in charge, visited the clinic with back pain. After two hours of training, the group was able to alleviate some of the pain she experienced.

"I definitely felt a difference," Tancrede said.

It has been reported that battlefield acupuncture is being implemented daily in Afghanistan and Iraq, Niemtzow said.

Army Maj. Charles Benner, a 29th Combat Aeromedical Physician Aviation Brigade assistant, attended the class only a few weeks before his deployment.

"I'm going to try it," Benner said. "I've seen it done in the past, and it worked."

"It is not better than western medicine, but it is a technique to relieve pain without any side effects that allows you to return back to duty much more rapidly than using medication," Niemtzow said.

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