Acupuncture: the Military’s New Weapon Against Chronic Pain

Acupuncture: the Military's New Weapon Against Chronic Pain

After decades of treating veterans suffering chronic pain from combat and service connected disabilities, the military has finally embraced alternative medicine and it is working! Although the verdict is out on whether acupuncture for pain relief will replace traditional medicine, the Department of Veterans Affairs is investing personnel and patience to wean veterans off of addictive painkillers.

If acupuncture should prove effective in managing chronic pain in our nation’s veterans, the impact would be startling. Not only would the Department of Veterans Affairs save billions of dollars spent on pharmaceuticals, but the caseload for military medical and mental health docto seek and maintain gainful and meaningful careers and experience longer and more productive pain free lives.

The Problem with Painkillers

From traumatic brain injuries and loss of limbs o provide lasting pain relief and indeed, some have resulted in chemical dependency and psychological or physiological side effects.

According to drug addiction, overdosing and in some cases, death. A Center for Independent Research analysis of data gathered through the Freedom of Information Act reported that VA opiate prescriptions had increased by 270 percent since 2003 and that chemical dependency among veterans is twice that of the general population.

Acupuncture: The Military’s Weapon against a Broken
Healthcare System

The system of pain management at the Department of Veterans Affairs is obviously broken. However, in spite of these daunting statistics, the U.S. military is striving to recommending alternative therapies, like yoga, relaxation, and creative therapy, the Air Force has launched an aggressive attack on chronic conditions with acupuncture for pain relief.

An ancient Chinese method of relieving pain through the application of needles inserted into relieve chronic pain, heal sports injuries, treat mental illness, and more.

Introducing: The Opioid Safety Initiative

The military’s first step in its war against chronic pain was to wean patients from drug dependency by prescribing alternative medication and therapies.

Acupuncture Treatment Enlists in the Air Force

In 2013, the Air Force put acupuncture on the front line for pain management and the results have been positive. Air Force pilots who are prohibited from taking prescribed or over the counter opiates and painkillers because they impair alertness and mental acuity were some of the first to get relief without the threat of addiction or organ damage.

In collaboration with the Helms Medical Institute of Berkeley, California, the Air Force employs two full time military physicians trained in Chinese and Korean techniques: Dr. Richard Niemtzow and Lt. Col. Timothy Kaczmar.

The Air Force’s efforts to 60 active-duty military physicians.

Is Military Acupuncture Treatment Successful?

While some scoff at acupuncture’s ability to alleviate pain while keeping soldiers alert and combat-ready.

As a result of ongoing military efforts, VA patients undergoing acupuncture treatment for pain report experiencing better management of chronic pain. Headaches are disappearing, debilitating back pain is lessening and PTSD is being managed. Most importantly, veterans who have sacrificed their lives for the sake of their nation no longer have to prescription drug addiction.


In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)


Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)


Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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