US Navy Battalion becomes first to use acupuncture on the battlefield

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Cmdr. Andrew Olsen, left, commander of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5, receives ear acupuncture therapy on the battlefield from Lt. Jeffrey Moy, NMCB-5 medic, aboard Camp Shields, Okinawa, Japan. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Stéphane Belcher / US Navy

August 25 (UPI) – A form of acupuncture developed for military settings is now available for the first time to members of a deployable command of the US Navy, the branch said on Wednesday.

Members of Mobile Naval Construction Battalion 5, known as the “Navy Seabees,” may receive “battlefield ear acupuncture treatments” for pain and other ailments, according to a press release from Marine.

Unlike regular treatments, which involve long needles left in patients for 20 minutes, “battlefield ear acupuncture” involves inserting small gold needles into the military’s ears.

Treatment focuses on the ear, as military bodies are often covered with uniforms, protective gear, and backpacks.

The smaller needles are left in place for three to 14 days and can treat pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, nausea and addictions, including smoking cessation.

Treatment does not exclude the military, unlike some medications for pain, PTSD, anxiety, depression and addiction, according to the Navy.

“What’s really interesting is that when we all learned how to do this, we practiced on each other,” Lt. Jeffrey Moy, the battalion’s surgeon, said in the statement.

“Some people felt like things were happening very, very quickly. They didn’t have to take drugs and wait 30 minutes for a potential drug to work. You almost get a very, very fast release of adrenaline and very sudden, almost, ”Moy said. .

Moy said the treatment will be used in limited circumstances. For example, it would not be used if it was not clear why a member was in pain to avoid masking symptoms.

However, in a circumstance where a serviceman sprained his knee or twisted his ankle, acupuncture would be used to relieve pain when treating the injury, he said.

Battlefield Auricular Acupuncture was developed in 2001 by Dr. Richard Niemtzow, who discovered that inserting a small needle into a patient’s ear disrupted their brain’s pain process, according to the Military Times.

But there has been a lack of doctors trained in the technique.

An article published in 2018 in Medical Acupuncture revealed a growing interest in acupuncture in the military healthcare system.

The article found that acupuncture was commonly used for pain management and an alternative to opioids, but also cited a lack of data on specific uses for the treatment.

Despite the uncertainty, the US military health care system has gradually embraced acupuncture. In January 2020, the Defense Health Agency released guidelines and regulations on the use of the treatment.

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