EAR ACUPUNCTURE: HEADED TO COMBAT ZONES?
If you’re in pain, some Army doctors might stick a needle in your ear.
Auricular acupuncture focuses on points in the ear, and some Army doctors who have practiced this form of pain management are looking to introduce formal training for some medics and increase its use across the Army.
“Acupuncture has been used in the Army for over a decade,” said Maj. (Dr.) David Jamison, chief of the pain clinic at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “Since I was a resident in 2004, people were using it already, but it’s become much more mainstream. We’re using it a lot more in training more people, and we’re trying to have it be included more in our algorithms for treating pain, certainly here at Walter Reed.”
Jamison and his colleagues are developing a plan that would add auricular acupuncture training to Special Forces medic training.
“This past fall, I attended the Special Operations Medical Association annual conference and talked about several types of acupuncture,” Jamison said. “We’re trying to push out some of these methods to the field environment, and we’re trying to push it out so it can be used farther forward.”
Right now, there’s no formal training or requirement for Army medical personnel to be trained in acupuncture, auricular or otherwise. Instead, those who have the training will use it in addition to regular treatments.
“I’d say it’s not a standard of care,” Jamison said. “I use it in my practice, but it’s mainly as an adjunct to our other therapies. When I was deployed, I was at a combat support hospital, but I brought acupuncture supplies with me and lots of people loved it there.”
Auricular acupuncture would be an ideal way to introduce acupuncture to the battlefield because its basic form is easier to teach and simpler to practice than regular acupuncture, Jamison said.
“We think it can be used more in the field than it is,” he said.
You can teach someone a few basic auricular acupuncture techniques over a weekend, Jamison said. You can use traditional acupuncture needles for 20 to 30 minutes at a time or insert a small needle that’s attached to what looks like a small gold stud into the ear and the patient can leave it in for a couple of days, he said. Typically, an acupuncturist will put four or more needles in each ear.
Auricular acupuncture works, Jamison said. And with increasing acceptance of alternative therapies, he hopes this practice will become more common across the Army.
“I would say most people thought it sounded pretty strange to them maybe five years ago, but you hear a lot more about acupuncture now and there are enough people who have had it and had a good experience with it. Now people request it when they come in.”
Here's the full article if you're interested in reading further: Army On Brink of New Ways to Fight Pain, an article on ArmyTimes.com.