Battlefield Acupuncture Relieves Pain for Veterans


“I have no pain.”

With these words, Air Force veteran Nadine Stanford became the first resident of the Community Living Center of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System to undergo battlefield acupuncture (BFA) treatment.

No more than 15 minutes before treatment, Stanford told VA Pittsburgh acupuncturist Amanda Federovich that the pain in her buttocks was a ten on the zero to ten pain scale. Ten reflects the worst pain Stanford can imagine.

Acupuncturist Amanda Federovich carefully places needles in veteran Nadine Stanford’s ear.

Stanford had previously tried narcotic pain relievers, pain relievers, benzodiazepines, kinesthesia, and music therapy. Nothing really worked for his pain until Federovich gently inserted five small needles into each of Stanford’s ears.

Five dots on the ear correspond to specific areas of the body, Federovich explained. Point by point, the acupuncturist places needles in one ear and then in the other until the patient feels better. By confining treatment to the ears, battlefield acupuncture practitioners can provide care on the battlefield or whenever a member’s entire body is not available for treatment.

“Oh yes”

Every time Federovich placed a pair of needles, she would ask Stanford to move his arms and hands. With each placement, Stanford found it easier to move around. Whenever Federovich asked Stanford if she wanted the treatment to continue, she would enthusiastically respond “Oh yeah” or “Yes ma’am! “

“I was delighted that Nadine no longer felt pain at the end of the session,” said Federovich. “Her daily life is a struggle due to the pain of her contractures, spasms and injuries. It is very upsetting to see her so happy and relaxed.

Federovich warned that acupuncture on the battlefield doesn’t always work so quickly and dramatically. “The average response to BFA is a reduction in pain of 2.2 points [on the zero-to-10 scale] from pre- to post-session. Some Veterans have a greater pain reduction response than others. Having total pain relief is the best of times.

“I have no pain,” Nadine Stanford said after the treatment.

Acupuncture is part of overall health

Federovich said battlefield acupuncture, along with standard acupuncture, is a key part of the Whole Health movement. Overall health focuses on the outcomes the Veteran wants for their life, as opposed to any illnesses or injuries they may have. He also organizes care to achieve these results.

“We are empowering our Veterans to actively participate in their health care,” she said. “Things like chronic pain, anxiety, PTSD, these are things that acupuncture on the battlefield can treat so veterans are not addicted to drugs.”

Federovich is the first advanced practice nurse at VA Pittsburgh to be certified in battlefield acupuncture. As a result, she is ready to train other health practitioners. “I look forward to rolling out BFA to the rest of the facility. I hope other veterans will have similar responses and improve their quality of life.

Keith E. Gottschalk is a Public Affairs Specialist with the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.

Read more:

Whole Health focuses on you, the veteran

Winter Sports Clinic participants find relief with acupuncture on the battlefield

Charleston veteran battles chronic pain, recovers, and his family


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