Master Sgt. Nathan Carlson, 219th Security Forces Squadron health technician, touches his toes to locate pain in his back on Minot Air Force Base, N.D., May 22, 2014. Locating and testing pain levels are the first steps in battlefield acupuncture before inserting the studs into the ear. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Sahara L. Fales)
Capt. Laramie Richmond, 5th Medical Operations Squadron personnel reliability program clinic physician assistant, places studs in a patient’s ear onMinot Air Force Base, N.D., May 22, 2014. Several studs are placed in specific parts of both ears to relieve pain throughout different areas of the body. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Sahara L. Fales)
by Airman 1st Class Sahara L. Fales
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs
7/28/2014 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- No one really knows how it began. The most common story is about an Army surgeon in Ancient China who was treating a soldier for chronic back pain. During battle, his patient was shot in the leg by an arrow, and strangely enough his back pain disappeared. Shortly after, another soldier was shot in the same exact spot. He too was relieved of pain he had previously been experiencing. From that moment on the surgeon began sticking his patients with arrows to treat their pain. Thus began acupuncture.
Regardless of where it came from, battlefield acupuncture is becoming more popular every day. It was more thoroughly developed in America approximately 10 years ago for use during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, hence its name.
"It is a quick, simple and easy method of pain control that can be treated on the battlefield," said Capt. Laramie Richmond, 5th Medical Operations Squadron physician's assistant in the personnel reliability program clinic. "It is convenient because Airmen can still wear the studs without having to remove their helmets, Kevlar and other important pieces of armor."
Battlefield acupuncture is used to treat many different types of pain caused by surgery, acute injuries, sprains, broken bones, neuropathic or even long term pain.
This treatment is provided at Minot Air Force Base for all Department of Defense beneficiaries, who aren't pregnant, on PRP or on flying status.
"We have 65 patients currently enrolled in this program," said Richmond. "Our results show that 80 percent of our patients get some form of relief."
Master Sgt. Nathan Carlson, 219th Security Forces Squadron health technician, is one of the clients receiving treatment here. He was in a motorcycle accident in 2007 that left him with injured vertebrae and chronic back pain.
"Acupuncture provides immediate relief and no pain for about 5-10 days," said Carlson. "The best part is there is minimal to no pain during the procedure."
It begins with testing a position that typically causes the patient pain. After allowing the patient to rate the amount of pain, the medical provider will clean the ear and insert the first stud. The studs are placed in five key points in the ear that stimulate nerve pathways to disrupt the pain, causing temporary relief. The provider will have the patient walk around to check for any signs of faintness. Lastly, they will test the position again to see if another stud is needed.
Carlson has seen a chiropractor and physical therapist for years but battlefield acupuncture seems to be the go-to treatment for him.
"Battlefield acupuncture is great," said Carlson. "It is like a reset button on my pain in life."