Acupuncture in battle? Some Experts Swear it’s Possible

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Military aerospace medical experts from around the Kaiserslautern Military Community and allied countries gathered on Ramstein to discuss various topics surrounding aerospace medicine.

During the annual conference, which was a collaboration of the Ramstein Aerospace Medicine Summit and the NATO Scientific Technical Organization, discussions ranged from factors influencing flight fatigue, preventing cardiovascular disease in aviators, medical evacuations in remote areas, to space medicine as an example of international cooperation.

Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine believed to originate in Ancient China. It involves inserting needles into a patient’s body with the intention of curing ailments such as pain and headaches. The practice eventually made its way into western medicine.

The modified version of the ancient therapy was created in the early 2000s by retired Air Force Col. Richard C. Niemtzow, a radiation oncologist. Although Niemtzow initially intended it to be a fast and reliable pain treatment for troops in a combat zone, the practice soon spread into non-combat environments.

While traditional acupuncture is applied to different parts of the body, Niemtzow’s battlefield acupuncture focuses mainly on the ear.

Retired Air Force Col. Thomas R. Piazza, M.D., Air Force Acupuncture Program director, discussed how to apply battlefield acupuncture. After lecturing the conference attendees on the topic, he showed them how to apply their newly gained knowledge.

As the exchange of information flowed, the conference served as a medium for medical practitioners from different nations to work together in a field of study where developments are constant.