Battlefield acupuncture offers alternative pain relief for deployed service members
By Airman 1st Class Bahja J Jones, 11th WIng Public Affairs
/ Published August 25, 2011
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.