With acupuncture having roots in Chinese medicine going back over 5000 years, it seems silly to choose such a title for this article. Yet, in the 21st century, it appears that the United States is only beginning to dive into the layers of possibility concerning deployment of acupuncture in many different areas.
All too often, Western medicine’s view of acupuncture is that of a complementary treatment holding an inferior position next to chemical drugs and pharmaceutical treatments. Yet, what most licensed acupuncturists can attest to instead of being a second string bench warmer, is that their craft is often the star player.
Among the many health challenges facing Western medicine, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain sticks out as sad reminders of our failed medical paradigm. Chronic pain is the number one cause of adult disability in the United States affecting an estimated 100 million people. This statistic is dwarfed by the recent report of 22 suicides per day among veterans and active duty soldiers. The options are out there waiting to be utilized. We can do better.
1. PTSD and Sleep
There is mounting evidence being made public that the Veteran’s association (VA) has put the military men and women of the United States second to agendas and bottom lines. Instead of parroting nightmarish headlines about continuous VA scandals and shortcomings to illustrate a point, I believe Eddie Vedder says it best in his song “No More War” when he wrote the lyrics “Nothing’s too good for a veteran, this is what they say. So nothing is what they will get in this new American way.”
One study has shown that 100% of participants with PTSD had sleep problems. There is a correlation with increased/better sleep and less suicides. Allowing for better sleep patterns has been one of the many avenues where acupuncture has shown promise with PTSD individuals in reducing symptoms and suicide rates. The non-profit organization Acupuncturist Without Boarders has launched the Military Stress Recovery Project for veterans in need of assistance.
At the very least, every prescription for a pharmaceutical drug written to a PTSD-diagnosed military veteran should also include rounds of acupuncture treatment. Monetary issues aside, this is a real no-brainer since it’s proven effective and the side effects of acupuncture are a minuscule fraction when compared to that of pharmaceutical medications pushed by mainstream/military medical doctors.
2. Battlefield Acupuncture
There is a growing body of research proving the merit of basic acupuncture protocols taught to personal and medical staff alike in active battle and disaster zones. Needing very limited materials and using key acupuncture points (usually located in/on the ear), the practice is proving beneficial on multiple fronts.
First, many soldiers have limited access to medicines on the battlefield especially when it comes to acute and chronic pain. Acupuncture has shown promise in reducing or eliminating both. Second, by administering acupuncture along with regular protocols soon after an incident, it may be possible to reduce the deep impact of the potential PTSD that may follow and become rooted.
Finally, acupuncture has no addictive qualities compared to normal protocols (pharmaceutical prescription medicines) which would allow the solider to make an easier transition to civilian life without the risk of addiction concerns and proven dangerous side effects.
3. Conscious Surgery
Ever had the urge to stay awake during a major surgery? In the future, some hospitals may offer that option. Using acupuncture before, during, and after surgery has been commonplace and proven outside of the United States for some time. It wasn’t until recently that acupuncturist Ramon Nunez started making headlines when he applied the technique to a patient who, in the name of science, chose to brave a major knee surgery fully awake and not medicated.
Although soldiers rarely find themselves in perfectly controlled environments like the video below shows, there appears to be much hope for the future of acute pain management without harmful and addictive medications.
Do you think acupuncture could be part of the new paradigm leading us away from pharmaceutical medications?
Note: The video does show footage of surgery.