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"9/11 Memorial" by Tom Hart, used with permission under CC BY 2.0. Source.

Battlefield Acupuncture Gains Popularity

With the recent commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 – in New York City, and across the globe – we are reminded about how important easing stress and (physical and emotional) pain surrounding a traumatic event can be.  This includes our troops, their spouses/partners, and those of us civilians who bore witness or experienced loss during this time.

For a few years now, acupuncture has been gaining popularity amongst the U.S. Military in the form of “battlefield acupuncture”.  Even the Pentagon is researching its effectiveness.  In 2008, USA Today’s article, “Pentagon Researches Alternative Treatments”, addressed our nation’s need to bring healing relief to those serving our country.  It is a fact that more of them are returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression.  There was even an increase in suicides reported by the Army, in the year 2007, alone.

Four years later, there have been more casualties of this war.  In the USA Today article, it was reported that combat veterans experience less depression and a reduction of stress as a result of various “alternative” treatments, including acupuncture.  (Acupuncture is often deemed “alternative”, but it has actually been the mainstay in China and other countries for the past 2,000 years.  Quite an old medicine, indeed.)  No mention of what type of acupuncture was performed.  But, most likely, between full-body treatments (in which the whole body is given acupuncture, and can range from few needles to a moderate amount) and auricular acupuncture (ear needles, where the ear represents the microcosm of the body), ear needles may be more popular.

In fact, DCMilitary.com published an article last month, “Battlefield Acupuncture Delivers Fast, Alternative Relief From Pain”.  In it, Airman 1st Class Bahja Jones, 11th Wing Public Affairs, stated that auricular battle acupuncture was an effective form of treatment for mild to moderate cases of pain.

This is especially helpful when troops would like an alternative to western medication and need to get back out on the field.  Richard C. Niemtzow, Air Force Acupuncture Clinic director, developed the battlefield acupuncture technique in 2001.  He states that 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.”  It is now being implemented daily in Afghanistan and Iraq.


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