An Unlikely Pair: The Army and Acupuncture

Listening to NPR this morning, I almost choked on my toothbrush: the US military is using acupuncture to treat chronic pain.

Not known for its liberal leanings, the defense department is deploying alternative medicine as a weapon against chronic pain. Well, not all wings of the military; just the Air Force has an acupuncture clinic, which it opened in 2002. While the army used to rely solely on medication to treat chronic pain, they have found acupuncture to have minimal to no side affects, no complications, and no interactions with pharmaceuticals. One soldier, experiencing phantom leg pain post-amputation, explained that in the short term acupuncture treated the pain more effectively and more quickly than medication, but admitted that needling might not have a long lasting effect on the pain. He said the acupuncture left him euphoric, where pain meds leave him loopy.

The military advises that acupuncture is by no means a replacement for western medicine, but a great complement to existing techniques to ease the pain of injured soldiers. Have you ever been needled? What is your take on acupuncture?

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