Military Turns to Acupuncture as Alternative to Prescription Painkillers
As the number of prescriptions for opiate painkillers skyrockets and more troops admit abusing those drugs the military has been forced to look beyond conventional ways to treat pain. Lt. Col. Dan Ferris has taken some ribbing for what he calls “the bling in my ears. “But the 44-year-old Air Force pilot doesn’t mind. What appear to be post earrings are actually tiny acupuncture needles, which Ferris said have helped ease his chronic lower back pain, allowing him to keep up a relentless flying schedule during six months in Afghanistan. “Acupuncture helps with the pain, to the point of removing it,” Ferris said recently from Kandahar Air Field. He can’t pop painkillers, because fliers are limited to certain drugs and doses. The service runs the military’s only full-time acupuncture clinic at Malcolm Grow Medical Center at Joint Base Andrews, Md. For me, it’s better than drugs.” The military is finding that Western medicine alone doesn’t always work in relieving the suffering of troops dealing with a complex range of injuries after nine years of war, from multiple concussions to backs strained under heavy packs and body armor.
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