By Noah Shachtman
The military medical community has been using all sorts of alternative therapies — yoga, meditation, even animal-petting — to ease the strains of post-traumatic stress disorder FOR returning troops. One of the non-traditional treatments will be used in a war zone for the first time.
“The Air Force will begin teaching ‘battlefield acupuncture’ early next year to physicians deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan,” reports the Baltimore Sun’s David Wood. “The initiative marks the first high-level endorsement of acupuncture by the traditionally conservative military medical community, officials said.”
Using tiny needles that barely penetrate the skin of a patient’s ear, Air Force doctors here say they can interrupt pain signals going to the brain … relieving even unbearable pain for days at a time….
“This is one of the fastest pain attenuators in existence — the pain can be gone in five minutes,” said Col. Richard Niemtzow, a physician, acupuncturist and senior adviser to the Air Force surgeon general.
Niemtzow, an oncologist, also sees acupuncture as a way to treat obesity and macular degeneration.
Meanwhile, other Eastern-inspired techniques are slowly spreading throughout the services. Walter Reed hospital is using yoga to combat PTSD. Submariners and Camp Lejeune marines are using Warrior Mind Training to improve mental focus. And the Army is spending $4 million to study various alternative-therapies, including a research project that examines “how holding and petting an animal can treat PTSD.”