Medical acupuncture, which is acupuncture performed by a licensed physician trained at a conventional medical school, is being used increasingly for pain control.
Richard Niemtzow, MD, PhD, MPH, Editor-in-Chief of Medical Acupuncture, a peer-reviewed journal (www.liebertpub.com/acu) and the official journal of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, is at the forefront of these efforts in the military.
The technique developed by Dr. Niemtzow has been so successful that the Air Force will begin teaching "Battlefield Acupuncture" to physicians deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan in early 2009. "Battlefield Acupuncture" can relieve severe pain lasting several days.
Based on modern neurophysiological concepts, Niemtzow developed a variation of acupuncture that involves inserting very tiny semi-permanent needles into very specific acupoints in the skin on the ear to block pain signals from reaching the brain. This method can lessen the need for pain medications that may cause adverse or allergic reactions or addiction.
"This is one of the fastest pain attenuators in existence," said Dr. Niemtzow, who is the Consultant for complementary and alternative medicine for the Surgeon General of the Air Force, and is affiliated with Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda. "The pain can be gone in five minutes."