An often forgotten population within our healthcare system is our veterans. They put their lives on the line across the world and regularly return home to less-than-stellar healthcare provisions. The VA offices are not the same in every place and don’t provide consistent care. Sometimes they just prescribe pills for veterans to deal with their pain. This is where battlefield acupuncture has been studied: for upon their return, our soldiers often benefit from this technique.
How Can Battlefield Acupuncture Help our Service Men and Women?
Chronic pain is a serious issue that many people in the service suffer from. Often, this results in addiction to opioids or even worse. Today, we are here to discuss how acupuncture can truly help with the kind of chronic pain that our servicemen and women suffer from. Opioids, while prescribed to treat severe pain, have many adverse side-effects. Addiction is only one of them. We also know that the pharmaceutical business doesn’t necessarily take each patient into consideration.
Compared to prescribing pills, Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA) will get results right away. Not only is it quick and safe, it is also easy to implement due to the accessibility of ear points. The protocol consists of 5 auricular acupuncture points that are the same on everyone. BFA uses very tiny needles that adhere to and stay in your ear. This noninvasive version of acupuncture is very simple and only takes a few minutes. You don’t even need to lie down!
What is Happening Now with Battlefield Acupuncture?
While battlefield acupuncture is a relatively new technique in comparison to traditional pain management medicine, the Defense and Veterans Center for Integrative Pain Management and the Veterans Health Administration National Pain Management Program Office recently completed a 3-year $5.4 million acupuncture education and training program, which deployed certified BFA trainers to receptive Department of Defense and Veterans Administration medical centers. This research is great news for both acupuncturists as well as soldiers and veterans because it truly does work!
Does Battlefield Acupuncture Help with Pain?
According to the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, chronic pain is a serious problem for combat veterans and soldiers. In a sample of 2597 soldiers who had served in Afghanistan and Iraq, 44% reported pain lasting for more than 3 months, half of whom reported pain for 1 year or more.
This is very troubling.
So, How Does Battlefield Acupuncture Work?
There are certain pressure points, specifically in the ear, that can be targeted immediately and easily while in the field. According to the Military Times, it is especially effective because: “They don’t have to wait hours for medications to take maximal effect or endure side effects, like drowsiness or allergic reactions, of common pain medications,” said Air Force Col. Lynda Vu, who recently administered BFA while deployed in Qatar. “This allows personnel to go back to the fight with minimal impact to continuing mission operations.” The micro needles also stay in your ear from a few hours to a few days, depending on the severity of pain.
There are five specific points which are classically used, however many practitioners only use two. The five points are: Wonderful Point (also known as Point Zero), Shen Men, Omega 2, Thalamus, and the Cingulate Gyrus. The Cingulate Gyrus point and the Thalamus are the two points which all practitioners will use. (Acupuncture Today)
Each point has a different purpose and correlates to a different part of the body. Let’s go through them:
- Wonderful Point (Point Zero): Known for being able to bring the body back to homeostasis, point zero promotes balance, regulates the brain, visceral organs, and hormones.
- Shen Men: Treats depression, stress, anxiety, and inflammation. Shen Men essentially tranquilizes the mind and allows a harmonious relationship between you and your spirit.
- Omega 2: Represents the musculoskeletal and vascular systems. This point helps alleviate shock, reduces inflammation, and promotes the excretion of metabolic and toxic waste.
- Thalamus: This ear point is used for many types of acute or chronic pain disorders and helps calm the mind.
- Cingulate Gyrus: This point regulates emotion and memory surrounding pain. Not only is it helpful at reducing high blood pressure, anxiety, and stress, but it also has general sedative properties that promote a deep relaxation.
What Does Battlefield Acupuncture Treat?
Pain. Immediately. Battlefield acupuncture protocol calls for small needles in the skin of the ear. It can block pain in as few as five minutes and can last for several days or longer. BFA is being deemed effective and an excellent supplement to traditional western medicine or medication for pain. Specialists and recipients alike have said their pain was immediately relieved — up to 75%. This kind of jump is unprecedented; most folks going through pain management generally report 25-50% pain relief. Imagine if this were more widespread!
What’s even more exciting about testing this specific sort of acupuncture is that it can be used for other acute pain situations like childbirth. There are also virtually no complications with BFA, and patients are subjected to little or no discomfort.
Research at the National Institutes of Health shows that BFA is effective and useful for those in pain. With such promise and funding, we are hoping that battlefield acupuncture expands and becomes commonplace. Not only will it help people who need to be relieved of their acute and chronic pain, but it will also reduce the often painful side effects of opioid use.
Battlefield acupuncture can also help with PTSD, as there are certain acupuncture points to help relieve anxiety, stress, and other factors that work against soldiers returning from battle. In fact, a recent study showed that “Acupuncture was effective for reducing PTSD symptoms.” The researchers determined that a brief course of acupuncture “is an effective treatment adjunct for PTSD….” Patients using acupuncture combined with usual care “showed significantly greater improvements” over patients receiving usual care only.
In addition to mental health and chronic pain issues in veterans and soldiers, BFA can treat civilians with chronic headaches or migraines, other anxiety disorders, and so much more.
Acupuncture has a very long history of being able to treat, heal, and help people across the board and Battlefield acupuncture is no exception. This special protocol will continue to foster physical and mental health in our service men and women. Supporting people experiencing discomfort, pain, and anxiety disorder, Battlefield acupuncture is a must try for all! If you are interested in trying the healing benefits of acupuncture and you are located in the Denver area feel free to reach out to me here!