People who live with chronic pain know the impact it can have on their daily lives. Not only does it affect the quality and enjoyment of life, but it can make everyday tasks difficult or impossible. With the opioid crisis continuing to grow, many people are looking for alternative treatment methods.
Dr. Michael Gaudiose of Keystone Family Medicine has seen first-hand the improvement acupuncture, specifically Battlefield Acupuncture, has made in many people’s lives.
Dr. Gaudiose learned Battlefield Acupuncture while serving as a Family Physician at Dunham U.S. Army Clinic and received additional training at Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg, NC. He answers some frequently asked questions about the subject in today’s Take Care article.
What is Battlefield Acupuncture?
Acupuncture has been around for more than 5,000 years. While researchers are still studying to find the exact way acupuncture relieves pain, we do know that all pain is processed in the brain. There is evidence that acupuncture works by suppressing pain transmission signals and by releasing endorphins into the brain to suppress the feeling of pain and disrupt the pain signals.
Battlefield Acupuncture was developed in 2001 by Dr. Richard Niemtzow while on active duty in the United States Air Force. He was looking for an effective way to be able to relieve pain on the battlefield without having to carry a lot of supplies with him. He discovered that a specific sequence of needles, when inserted into the ears, could relieve many types of pain quickly and effectively.
How does it work?
In this type of acupuncture, instead of inserting needles into the part of the body that is in pain, needles are inserted into the surface of the ear. There is scientific evidence that the regions of the ear have a connection to distant body functions, and that that pain relief can be achieved through using ear acupuncture in the correct areas.
Very small needles are inserted into five specific areas of the ear. These needles have a flat head, (similar to a very small nail head), and will stay in your ear until they fall out on their own, usually in two to five days. Pain assessments are taken before and after treatment.
How long does it take to see results?
Some people get results immediately, while others notice their results in the hours and days after treatment. Data shows that 80% of people get at least a 50% reduction in pain level.
How long do the results last?
While some patients receive long-term relief after just one treatment, many require repeat treatments. Most patients will have several days of relief after the first treatment, and after multiple treatments their relief period often becomes longer. Most people report having pain relief for a few days to a month after treatment.
Is it painful?
The needles are so small that pain is not an issue for most patients. You may feel a slight pinch or minor discomfort, but this feeling goes away quickly.
When you leave the office the needles are usually not bothersome, but can become uncomfortable during certain activities such as talking on the phone or sleeping on your side. If they are causing discomfort you can remove them with tweezers or your fingernails.
What have patients said about their experience?
Some patients say they feel better than they have in years, and some have been able to reduce the amount of opioids they take.
I witnessed one patient who walked into the office bent over because of back pain, leaving the office walking upright due to the relief of acupuncture. It is important to note that this treatment does not work for everyone. A small number of people experience no relief after treatment. But in my experience about 90% of patients get at least some results from Battlefield Acupuncture.
Who is a good candidate for Battlefield Acupuncture?
If you experience any type of chronic pain, including migraines, you may benefit from it. People who are pregnant (or might be pregnant), or have a fear of needles are not recommended to undergo this treatment. If you have a bleeding disorder you should discuss this with your provider before deciding to try Battlefield Acupuncture. People who are on active military special mission programs (such as Flight Status) may have restrictions as well.
This article contains general information only and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or care by a qualified health care provider.