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The focus of VA’s Whole Health content throughout September is both conventional and Complementary and Integrative Health (CIH) treatments—and how the two approaches converge. The tools that VA has made available can help BVA members and their families learn how CIH, along with conventional treatments, result in better outcomes for veteran health and well-being.

One CIH treatment that continues to increase in popularity while also remaining somewhat controversial in some circles is acupuncture. VA’s Whole Health approach includes complementary and integrative health approaches such as acupuncture to help veterans live their best life and “Live Whole Health.” 

“Battlefield acupuncture” is a specialized treatment stemming from Eastern medicine 5,000 years ago but which was developed and utilized by Air Force Dr. (Col.) Richard Niemtzow during U.S. deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dr. Niemtzow sought to streamline treatment to quickly reduce pain in fast-paced environments such as deployments. Hence, the term battlefield acupuncture. Traditional acupuncture inserts very thin needles at specific trigger points around the body to relieve pain while battlefield acupuncture employs tiny needles that are inserted at various trigger points in the ear.

As U.S. Army Veteran Joe Knight discovered, battlefield acupuncture can relieve pain and reduce or eliminate the need for prescription drugs. For many years, he suffered from debilitating pain due to wrist and shoulder injuries and surgeries.

Although he started drinking again when he was unable to obtain opiate pain medications to manage his pain, Joe explains how battlefield acupuncture came to the rescue, offering relief for the pain and a new opportunity to live life to its fullest. Read Joe’s account here.