Acupuncture Makes Strides in Treatment of Brain Injuries, PTSD (VIDEO)

Military field physicians are using the practice of acupuncture to treat cases of mild traumatic brain injuries (mild TBI), including concussions, and cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“We think it’s important to work on these as a team and address both issues at the same time to try to get a Marine back on his feet and heading in the right direction,” said Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Charlies Benson, a psychiatrist and surgeon with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

Navy Cmdr. Keith Stuessi, officer in charge, Concussion Restoration Care Center, Alpha Surgical Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15 (Forward), 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), performs an acupuncture procedure on a Marine at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, Jan. 13. Acupuncture is being utilized as an alternative treatment to help concussed patients with relaxation, pain and difficulty sleeping.

Navy Cmdr. Keith Stuessi, officer in charge, Concussion Restoration Care Center, Alpha Surgical Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15 (Forward), 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), performs an acupuncture procedure on a Marine at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, Jan. 13. Acupuncture is being utilized as an alternative treatment to help concussed patients with relaxation, pain and difficulty sleeping. (Photo: 1st Marine Logistics Group)

Acupuncture, a form of alternative medicine, treats patients by the insertion and manipulation of needles in the body. It has been known to relieve pain, treat infertility and diseases, and prevent diseases.

Operation Stress Control and Readiness Program, a joint Navy-Marine Corps effort, embeds psychiatrists and psychologists within combat teams to provide mental health care to troops in Afghanistan. The program trains medical officers, corpsmen, chaplains, religious personnel and key leaders at the sergeant and first sergeant level to deliver basic mental health services. Troops also have the option to see physical therapists, occupational therapists, and acupuncturists at an outpatient concussion center to address physical and emotional impacts of combat-related injuries.

Having psychiatrists and psychologists embedded in regiments and battalions gives troops who might not naturally turn to a mental health provider a range of ways to seek help, Benson said.

Mild TBI is an especially challenging injury to treat, Bensen said, adding that it is a physical injury, which often includes psychological symptoms including insomnia, headaches, nightmares and anxiety.

“When folks have a mild traumatic brain injury, sometimes their symptoms have a psychiatric flavor,” Bensen said. “They might have difficulty sleeping or nightmares and anxiety along with that.”

As it turns out, PTSD symptoms are very similar to those of mild TBI – insomnia, headaches, memory problems, attention problems, anxiety and irritability. Studies have shown that acupuncture is an effective treatment for PTSD, leading Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Keith Stuessi, former director of the Concussion Restoration Care Center at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan to believe the treatment could be used for mild TBI as well.

Stuessi describes the Concussion Restoration Care Center as a success – treating more than 320 concussion patients thus far. Of the more than 20 troops he personally treated, almost all saw marked improvements in their sleep, anxiety levels and frequency of headaches. Cmdr. Earl Frantz, who replaced Steussi at Camp Leatherneck in March, continued the practice of using acupuncture on troops with symptoms of mild TBI.

Maj. Dorothy DeLeon, United States Forces-Iraq Red Team member, receives acupuncture for foot problems at a clinic in Baghdad. DeLeon said she is sold on the holistic healing approach to problems she has experienced in her foot and elbow.

Maj. Dorothy DeLeon, United States Forces-Iraq Red Team member, receives acupuncture for foot problems at a clinic in Baghdad. DeLeon said she is sold on the holistic healing approach to problems she has experienced in her foot and elbow. (Photo by: Sgt. Lindsey Kibler)

The Department of Defense is putting its weight behind acupuncture. For example, the most recent Veterans Affairs (VA) clinical guidance recommends acupuncture as a supplementary therapy for PTSD, anxiety, pain and sleeplessness. The VA is even recruiting candidates for a formal study of acupuncture’s effectiveness on PTSD and mild TBI.

For more information about acupuncture and its use to treat mild TBI and PTSD, watch the following videos of Cmdr. Steussi, and a piece by American Forces Network Afghanistan.

 







 

 

(The Wall Street Journal and Defense.gov contributed to this article.)

 

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About Carla Voorhees

Carla Voorhees has always been interested in science, from the time she grew string beans under varying conditions for the science fair (3rd grade) to the time she took every math and science class she could during high school. As her path during college and beyond took her somewhat away from the hard sciences, she is thrilled to be a part of the Armed With Science team. Carla holds a B.S. in Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2007), and an M.B.A. in Design Strategy from the California College of the Arts (2010). She works as a Web Strategist at DOD Public Web.
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  • Ckbartecchi

    Where is the data for using acupuncture (a recognized placebo) for these problems? Don’t our service men and women deserve better, science based therapies for any of their problems? When I was in the Army, we only used science based therapies. Alternative medicine (by definition, unproven therapy) was never considered. We don’t use alternative medicine on civilians today, only scientific, evidence based medicine is ethically acceptable.
    Carl Bartecchi, MD

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Linda-Cook-Boucher/1292896810 Linda Cook Boucher

    For facts related to acupuncture, please visit the Quackwatch.org site.

  • Federepubelge

    Anyhow accupuncture is a positive traetment, making reacting bodynerves through their connections into brain…a set up that may replace the desoriented stability.

  • http://www.greenherbalremedies.com/products/triphala.htm Triphala

    Hi,
    It is often said that meditation can heal many problems but the condition is that it should be done in the right manner. This is exactly the same case with acupuncture as well.  :)

  • Duchuy68

    The current system does not work, so got anything better?
    It maybe mind over matter but it works.MIke L.Ac

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Boyd-Bailey/1283484804 Boyd Bailey

    Dr. Bartecchi, SOOOO much wrong with your comment.  Acupuncture IS clinically proven in many well designed studies…Our “placebo” control in trials in not inactive, just sub-optimal acupuncture…Even still acupuncture or “fake”acupuncture outperforms standardized care for migraine prophylaxis, low back pain… “alt med (by definition, unproven therapy” ? What does this mean? You really need to check the literature before spouting off!

  • Exitosopz

    how good have you done for the soldiers, apparently not much if they are looking for other forms of treatment

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bill-Dovel/100001804419809 Bill Dovel

    Please look at this article that explains the placebo effect. Acupuncture works independently of placebo but just like conventional medicine relies on the addition of placebo effect also. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_P5W5PYO4MVJ7OEHYKX3DCDNULM Fumin

    American military Medical
    use acupuncture therapy
      

    Like the New York Times Health Edition
    (12-16-2008, D6) said article of chronic recurrent headaches, the best
    treatment, perhaps the most ancient acupuncture therapy. end of the article also says this is an
    alternative treatment has starting to move into the mainstream. More and more Americans are interested
    in Chinese culture, acupuncture as one of the important legacy of Chinese
    culture. in the United States following the Nixon visit to China will set off
    another wave after wave of acupuncture treatment, but this time the pursuit of different previous figure fresh, try new medical
    methods, there is little time for an element of excitement. After settling in of 30 years, has
    begun to enter the study of its treatment principle, the theory of acupuncture. Like the University of Rochester study
    found that acupuncture can treat pain why the explanation was found when the
    needle into the muscle, the body’s natural levels and anti-inflammatory
    analgesic compounds, a substance called adenosine, the points in the vicinity of the
    needle will be significantly increased, with acupuncture therapy has obvious
    biological mechanism. (Health and
    Science magazine) realize that acupuncture is superior in some areas the fact
    that traditional Western medicine.
      
       The following is to introduce a medical journal published the
    article in the U.S. Navy, a U.S. Navy Captain Medical Doctor Robert Koffman (Navy
    Capt. Robert Koffman) the front line in Afghanistan battlefield .He use
    acupuncture therapy to treatment mild non-open Traumatic brain injury ( TBI ),the
    concussion.. He uses an atypical,
    treatment of irregularities, ease and comfort, welcomed by the patient. Alleviate the suffering of TBI, the
    concussion the short-term or long-term symptoms without systemic medication.
    Valuable on the battlefield in the front line army hospital, the clinic in the
    poor condition of the rough, with his steady hands and reliable of acupuncture therapy
    practical has won the trust of hes patients. In
    the treatment process, although simple clinic however, he furnished and
    comfortable environment; quiet; soft lighting, soothing wonderful of woodwind
    melodies set a peaceful, the mood suddenly calm the wounded, came to feel like
    another world. In the troops treatment
    of such injuries, fits the sedative, narcotic drugs, did not work.

    He recognizes troops
    have become very cynical about medications, particularly narcotic pain
    medications. Doctor believe that has been proven that acupuncture therapy is much
    more useful than that simply providing drug treatment  but can not solve the problem, and particularly
    it not going to have side effects. He sees this alternative treatment as a useful
    assistant to other therapy, away to draw individuals actually to come seeking
    care,.
    Doctor said: “In the chaos of fighting terrorism can be short-lived calm
    environment of open, listening to music, soft low lighting, soft approach, that
    is how enjoy.” effect is clear and direct, wounded in the treatment of After all feel able to relax, quiet,
    and temporarily forget about the pain before.
    Doctor think  “This is an
    affordable, there are significant practical value of the excellent
    treatment.” Acupuncture use in the troops, the most satisfied is
    lightweight, easy to carry, without providing special equipment, special workplace. can relieve suffering for patients immediately.
      Navy Medical Corps training and the issuance of this certificate to
    be more able to provide acupuncture services to physicians, to the front around
    the base for the treatment of brain injury caused by those who have mental and
    physical suffering of the sick and wounded, and the resulting kinds of symptoms.

    The article gives us a lesson that really started acupuncture move into the mainstream
    medicine, recognition of the fact that acupuncture is superior in some areas, than
    the traditional Western medicine, and was starting to application of this
    ancient oriental medicine. Even at front line of war zone.

    Doctor Robert  Koffman of
    professionalism, but also we can learn, he set up the field in front of the
    battlefield clinics, although the poor condition, but the layout was very
    professional and have a wonderful melodious woodwind music coupled with the
    soft light, set a peaceful. In
    the course of treatment, as much as possible for the patient to create a
    perfect space to rest, but also improve the therapeutic effect.

     

     

     

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_P5W5PYO4MVJ7OEHYKX3DCDNULM Fumin

    U.S. Navy, a U.S. Navy Captain Medical Doctor Robert Koffman (Navy Capt.
    Robert Koffman) the front line in Afghanistan battlefield .He use acupuncture therapy
    to treatment mild non-open Traumatic
    brain injury ( TBI ),the concussion.. He
    uses an atypical, treatment of irregularities, ease and comfort, welcomed by
    the patient. Alleviate the
    suffering of TBI, the concussion the short-term or long-term symptoms without systemic
    medication.

  • Acuprix

    Acupuncture is used because it works and no form of medicine has been more scientifically proven. That’s why it is taught in the medical universities in France. Open your mind and do your research! I am the acupuncturist for the Wounded Warrior Battalion-east I have taken a lot of these guys far beyond what your medicine could do for them. That’s why the Naval Hospital on base is now sending referrals from around the base.

  • Acuherbals

    gee quackwatch…not likely to be any bias on that website…try searching pubmed that might be a more valid way to go.

  • http://www.best-norman-rockwell-art.com Keith

    I find it amusing that one of the posters is referring acupuncturists to Quackwatch. If it ain’t mainstream (the code word is scientifically proven = backed by big bucks) medical treatments such as surgery and drugs, it just will not fly on Quackwatch. Do not let the medical mainstream discourage the service from using an alternative treatment, especially one with a proven track record like acupuncture. Our soldiers deserve relief, not a life of addiction.

    As for the placebo effect, that is one of the greatest things about the human mind, that it can accept that what might be a sugar pill will help or relieve pain and other medical conditions. It is also well proven that most, if not all,  drugs rely heavily on that for their efficacy. Do not discount the placebo effect, even though the evidence suggests that acupuncture is much more.

  • A_mistidawn

    Acupuncture is a science based study. There are plenty of scientific evidence that are in American Medical Journals that prove acupunture.  Without knowing what is out there you will only have limited tools to work with your patients. Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine has helped many people where western medicine has failed. Any study that has an outcome of a placebo was most likely done by an MD such as yourself, with no chinese medicine knowlege. It is much more then placing needles.  It is not an alternative medicine but a traditional medicine that has been studied since before the turn of the modern area that is now used as an expanded medicine at some of America’s top hospitals (Mayo Clinics), univerisities (Berkley), and the military.
    Dr. Whitehead, Doctor of Oriental Medicine

  • http://www.facebook.com/NutriDoc Laura Dawson

    Perhaps Ckbartecchi, you are not familar with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) consensus statement issued in 1997 on viability for use of acupuncture in the treatment of pain and other diseases. In fact, there is a branch of the NIH, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) where research has been and in ongoing to demonstrate the efficacy of acupuncture, chiropractic and other models of health care. Check it out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/NutriDoc Laura Dawson

    In the winter of 1997, I shared the room with hundreds of acupuncturist from around the world and within the USA, as a guest of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). We read research papers, listened to the leaders in some of those studies share their outcomes, and after three long days of sharing and drafting, a Consensus Statement on the use of acupuncture was issued. While we found many other maladies that could be treated using acupuncture, i.e. carpal tunnel syndrome, post-stroke aphasia, the greatest shortfall in our existing system of health care was in the treatment of pain. We determined that in order to accept the ‘new kid on the block’ acupuncture could be useful in treating pain and chronic illnesses, without creating a signficant negative financial impact on the already existing medical doctors working within the surgical/pharmaceutic models of medicine. In fact, there is a branch of the NIH, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) where research has been and continues to demonstrate the efficacy of acupuncture, chiropractic and other models of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)health care. Check it out and get back to me.

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    thanks for this post.

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    Treatments are always beneficial for us because if we have relevant as well as good treatment then we can easily get relief from that particular problem.

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    Acupuncture is really the best treatment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002700103378 John Bobik LAc

    @Bartecchi, MD as an allopath what science based treatments would you prefer, Pharmaceuticals?  Anti-depressants promote
    suicidal thoughts. Anti-anxiety medications have all sorts of
    psychological and physiological side effects including slurred speech,
    confusion and disorientation depression, memory loss, forgetfulness,
    nausea, stomach upset, blurred or double vision not to mention
    addiction.  Before you criticize an effective treatment you clearly
    know nothing about review the many scientific studies showing the
    efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of many conditions and
    illnesses.  I personally am very glad to see Our Best getting effective
    treatment with little to no negative side effects.  Acupuncture is tried
    and true and has many recent scientific studies backing up age old
    treatment strategies. It sounds like you need to brush up on the data in
    so many journals including JAMA supporting acupuncture’s efficacy.
    Keep your prescription pad in your pocket, I am glad to see Our Best
    receive The Best and most effective Treatment available.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002700103378 John Bobik LAc

    @Bartecchi, MD as an allopath what science based treatments would you prefer, Pharmaceuticals?  Anti-depressants promote
    suicidal thoughts. Anti-anxiety medications have all sorts of
    psychological and physiological side effects including slurred speech,
    confusion and disorientation depression, memory loss, forgetfulness,
    nausea, stomach upset, blurred or double vision not to mention
    addiction.  Before you criticize an effective treatment you clearly
    know nothing about review the many scientific studies showing the
    efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of many conditions and
    illnesses.  I personally am very glad to see Our Best getting effective
    treatment with little to no negative side effects.  Acupuncture is tried
    and true and has many recent scientific studies backing up age old
    treatment strategies. It sounds like you need to brush up on the data in
    so many journals including JAMA supporting acupuncture’s efficacy.
    Keep your prescription pad in your pocket, I am glad to see Our Best
    receive The Best and most effective Treatment available.

  • Car

    First try with over 2000 studies on acupuncture.  This isn’t hocus pocus.

  • Car

    First try with over 2000 studies on acupuncture.  This isn’t hocus pocus.

  • mojorayjones

    Maybe if you knew how to use the internet and went to sites like Pubmed or the NIH site, you can find the data easily accessible in Evidence based form. Not to mention 5,000 yrs of use tends to trump any placebo effect or quack argument You have. Works on horses and animals just like people. It’s stood up to the test of time. What do you suggest? Give them psych meds like Haldol or Clozarin? Sure just give them another Rx like Cogentin to rid the EPS side effects. Acupuncture is being proven to be safe and effective, unlike Western medications which have serious side effects.  Your statement that Acupuncture is unproven is just plain ignorant. William Chinnock, L.Ac.

  • http://organiclotiononline.com/ organic face creams

     Well I am glad to hear this alternative therapy is working to help people.

  • Shaeotao

    If your a Doctor, and an academic, then surely you should now the vast history and effectiveness of acupuncture and Chinese medicine which has been around for many more centuries than modern western medicine. Why limit yourself to such a blinkered way of thinking. Also you should do your research, you show yourself as uneducated in all but your chosen field. There are vast amounts of clinically based research done and being done on acupuncture. In fact if western medicine embraced Chinese medicine more holistically then both modalities could advance in their effectiveness.
    Shae /Dr of Chinese Medicine
    ps: do you have to be a member of the armed forces to get that kind of job?

  • Jennifer

    Dr. Bartecchi, you may want to consider the research
    Harvard and Stanford started on acupuncture over ten years ago. There is an
    impressive contribution to literature and evidence based studies that are
    becoming ubiquitous within the biomedical community. Medical Acupuncture practice
    uses evidence based protocols that provide both relief from symptoms and
    etiological causes. Medical scholars trace your medical education to Chinese
    medical theory. Most surprising about your comments is that doctors continue
    pharmaceutical trials that prove harmful. Military soldiers have a history of
    being guinea pigs. I am an Army veteran and licensed Acupuncturist. I am
    thankful for the respect that soldiers are now getting in regards to healthy medical
    choices. I hope the next move will be discontinuing REQUIRED annual flu shots.
    Jennifer M. Williams, L.Ac

  • Jennifer M. Williams, L.Ac

    Karen, your program is an inspiration. I am in the Fort Bragg, NC area. The Fayetteville VA Hospital sends Veterans to me for acupuncture. I provide low cost pain treatment for the soldiers who have chronic pain. I stay quite busy!

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    Glad top know that there is a good treatment for Brain Injuries. The post was clear and i loved it.