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The Malcolm Grow Medical Center Acupuncture Clinic held a battlefield acupuncture course Aug. 11 for military medical professionals and other healthcare professionals to learn the innovative pain relief technique.

Rather than servicemembers opting for pharmaceutical drugs with possible adverse side effects that could affect job performance or duty abilities, battlefield acupuncture might be an effective alternative to treat mild to moderate pain.

Richard C. Niemtzow, Air Force Acupuncture Clinic director, developed the technique in 2001. Niemtzow, a retired Air Force colonel, said that acupuncturists place small gold, titanium, or stainless-steel semi-permanent needles in various pressure points within the ears to relieve pain. The needles interrupt the process of pain at the central nervous system to either temporarily or permanently relieve pain.

“The whole idea behind battlefield acupuncture is to find a rapid technique that would be simple to use for all types of pain,” Niemtzow said.

During the four-hour course, servicemembers learned the fundamentals of battlefield acupuncture, application techniques, and performed the technique on actual patients for real results.

After practicing placement of the acupuncture needles on oranges, the group then practiced locating the pressure points on each other as Niemtzow observed. Once they showed proficiency with placement, they were able to perform the technique on patients at the clinic.

Master Sgt. Michelle Tancrede, 779th AMDS mission operations NCO in charge, visited the clinic with back pain. After two hours of training, the group was able to alleviate some of the pain she has experienced.

“I definitely felt a difference,” Tancrede said.

It has been reported that battlefield acupuncture is being implemented daily in Afghanistan and Iraq, Niemtzow said.

Army Maj. Charles Benner, 29th Combat Aeromedical Physician Aviation Brigade assistant from Edgewood, Md., attended the class only a few weeks before his deployment.

“I’m going to try it,” Benner said. “I’ve seen it done in the past, and it worked.”

“It is not better than Western medicine, but it is a technique to relieve pain without any side effects that allows you to return back to duty much more rapidly than using medication,” Niemtzow said.