Discover how an United States Air Force Colonel Launched a Strike Against Pain
Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years, yet new innovations to the ancient healing art continue to be made. This is the case with Battlefield Acupuncture, which has played an important role in the United
States Armed Forces. The remarkable pain-relieving technique developed
by Air Force Colonel (Ret), Dr. Richard Niemtzow, is a specific protocol of
acupuncture done only on the outer ear, using specialized, semi-permanent needles.
Colonel Niemtzow initially introduced this method with the intention of eliminating wounded soldiers’ pain while on the battlefield. It was so successful that the Air Force began teaching it to physicians deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan in early 2009. Doctors at Andrews Air Force Base have found that this extraordinary procedure can relieve severe pain, lasting several days or more.
During the Vietnam War, there was some American exposure to acupuncture, but never an official government program to make use of the ancient healing art. Colonel Niemtzow is actually a traditionally trained radiation oncologist, researcher, forensic examiner and has served as a Chief Flight Surgeon in support of Operation Desert Shield/Storm. But around 1994, while stationed at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, he began studying acupuncture. In 1998 the Colonel was appointed as the United States Military’s first full-time acupuncturist. By 2002, Dr. Niemtzow became Consultant for Alternative and Complementary Medicine to the Air Force Surgeon General. He established the acupuncture clinic at Andrews Air Force Base.
I was privileged to have been among the first few civilian doctors to be personally trained by Dr. Niemtzow. When I met the Colonel in February of 2010, I had been successfully practicing auricular therapy ear acupuncture for several years. I was thrilled to add his Battlefield protocol to my practice.
Dr. Donald Liebell, DC, BCAO
477 Viking Drive #170
Virginia Beach, ViA 23452
The outer ear is called the auricle. Ear acupuncture is known worldwide as auricular therapy. Many sources have incorrectly reported that it was a Chinese development. Actually it was developed in France in the 1950s by neurologist, Paul Nogier, MD, who introduced it to the Chinese.
Colonel Niemtzow's Battlefield Acupuncture is a specific protocol based on the French physician, Nogier's work. It is a specific sequence of treating up to five specific acupuncture points on each ear, using ear acupuncture needles developed by Nogier, called ASP. After each point in the sequence is treated, patients get up and walk around a little bit before the next one is done.
Colonel (Dr. ) Steven Burns, who works with Dr. Niemtzow at Andrews Air Force Base, reminds the public that "acupuncture may be performed using traditional needles. Or physicians can use electro-acupuncture or even laser acupuncture. It [Battlefield Acupuncture with ASP needles] is just one more tool to help them do their job better." (source: official U.S. Air Force website)
On January 30, 2009, FOXnews.com reported that Chief Warrant Officer James Brad Smith had excellent results with Battlefield Acupuncture. He had fallen over 20 feet from a Black Hawk helicopter in Baghdad in December of 2008. Smith broke five ribs, punctured a lung and shattered bones in his hand. He was treated by Dr. Niemtzow at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. Officer Smith received acupuncture on several points on his ear, and his pain began to ease.
"My ribs feel numb now and I feel it a little less in my hand," Smith said, raising his injured arm. "The pain isn't as sharp. It's maybe 50 percent better."
It was reported that the throbbing pain in his leg didn't change with acupuncture treatment, but the pain levels in his arm and ribs were the lowest they've been since he was injured. He also said that he didn't feel groggy afterward, a side-effect he usually experiences from the low-level morphine he takes.
The specialized ear acupuncture needles (ASP) for Battlefield Acupuncture
Many years ago, Dr. Niemtzow told me that it was quite remarkable for an institution as conservative as the U.S. Military to adopt this procedure. He also points out that like all medical procedures, it doesn’t always work. I was recently honored with the invitation to join Dr. Niemtzow at Andrews Air Force base to experience Battlefield Acupuncture in a Military setting. Although there are no current plans to expand the program beyond the Andrews clinic, my office is just a few miles from Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach. Local Military personnel and dependents can conveniently receive treatment.
Dr. Niemtzow and I discussed how unfortunate it is that Tricare does not cover acupuncture and man other drug-free treatments. Nevertheless, he and I agreed that because it is an affordable treatment that can reduce severe pain for many days—often after everything else has failed; it is well worth it to pursue.
Battlefield Acupuncture is an amazing pain-relieving procedure. It’s so simple that it’s hard to believe. It is not a replacement for treating the cause of a condition, but it can bring sweet relief after all has failed. An Internet search reveals several studies and medical journal papers involving Battlefield Acupuncture.
"In the beginning, many people were skeptical, but after seeing it demonstrated on patients and the benefits achieved -- especially in the area of pain -- the majority of physicians embraced it and learned how to use it in their practices as an adunctive therapy.
Colonel (Dr.) Richard Niemztow, M.D., PhD., M.P.H.(Air Force Print News 3/14/08)
Dr. Richard Niemtzow
Dr. Richard Niemtzow
What You Need to Know about
Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA) 2018
477 Viking Drive #170, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23452, United States
The Liebell Clinic has office hours one Saturday each month for special evaluations. Times and dates are variable month-to-month.
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