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Deploying physicians to use acupuncture

ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. (AFNS) -- At the acupuncture clinic here, Col. (Dr.) Richard Niemtzow and Col. (Dr.) Stephen Burns run the service's first full time acupuncture clinic. For them, acupuncture treatments are a full-time job. 

The Air Force surgeon general announced recently that a pilot program to train a cadre of active duty physicians in the emerging discipline of medical acupuncture will begin in March.  The two doctors are are at the forefront of the training.

"This is a unique course whose goal is to incorporate acupuncture into the practice of military medicine in the clinic and battlefield environments," said Dr. Niemtzow. 

The curriculum has been developed by Dr. Niemtzow and specialists at the Helms Medical Institute in Berkeley, Calif., and has been specifically designed for use in a military environment. 

"It is in fact, the first course of this kind to be offered in the Department of Defense," said Dr. Niemtzow. "The techniques that will be taught are time-tested and can be used to treat neuro-musculoskeletal pain as well as common functional and organic problems." 

Dr. Burns reinforces the value of acupuncture and its ease of application.

"Acupuncture may be performed using traditional needles. Or (physicians can use) electro-acupuncture or even laser acupuncture. It is just one more tool to help (them) do their job better" 

Martha Lewis, a volunteer at the information center at Malcolm Grow Medical Center here, is a strong believer in acupuncture.

"My husband and I volunteer at the hospital," she said. "And we kept seeing these folks come into the hospital barely able to walk down the hall. They would be on canes. Or have walkers. And then about 30 minutes to an hour later they would be back. But the change was amazing. They would have a spring in their step! And no walker or cane.

"Well we wanted to know what was going on and where were these folks going that the treatment made such an amazing difference," Mrs. Lewis said.  "So we stopped someone and they told us they were getting acupuncture. Well, I knew that whatever it was they were doing, I wanted some of that. So I tried it. And it gave me my life back!" 

Mrs. Lewis says thanks to her treatments she can now can now get out and around. She has even been on cruises, something she never could do before due to her chronic pain. 

"It really did change my life." said Mrs. Lewis. 

Airman 1st Class Christa Jessen from the Women's Health Clinic here, was experiencing pain in the back of her legs. She came to the clinic and had battlefield acupuncture for the first time.  She said she was skeptical before having it done. 

"I had heard about this before," she said.  "I thought I would try it. But I had no idea it worked this well! This is fantastic!"

The smile on her face when she was told to walk really showed why this procedure could help doctors in the future. She was glowing. 

Lt. Col. (Dr.) Wilbur Peralta from 779 MDOS also swears by acupuncture. He was experiencing pain in his shoulders. 

"They put the needles in one point on each side of the ear and the pain was immediately gone," Dr. Peralta said. "I can't believe in less than 10 minutes my pain is gone!" 

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