Battlefield acupuncture: Opening the door for acupuncture in Department of Defense/Veteran's Administration health care

Nurs Outlook. 2016 Sep-Oct;64(5):491-8. doi: 10.1016/j.outlook.2016.07.008. Epub 2016 Jul 20.


Battlefield acupuncture is a unique auricular acupuncture procedure which is being used in a number of military medical facilities throughout the Department of Defense (DoD). It has been used with anecdotal published positive impact with warriors experiencing polytrauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injury. It has also been effectively used to treat warriors with muscle and back pain from carrying heavy combat equipment in austere environments. This article highlights the history within the DoD related to the need for nonpharmacologic/opioid pain management across the continuum of care from combat situations, during evacuation, and throughout recovery and rehabilitation. The article describes the history of auricular acupuncture and details implementation procedures. Training is necessary and partially funded through DoD and Veteran's Administration (VA) internal Joint Incentive Funds grants between the DoD and the VA for multidisciplinary teams as part of a larger initiative related to the recommendations from the DoD Army Surgeon General's Pain Management Task Force. Finally, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences School of Medicine and Graduate School of Nursing faculty members present how this interdisciplinary training is currently being integrated into both schools for physicians and advanced practice nurses at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Current and future research challenges and progress related to the use of acupuncture are also presented.

Keywords: Advanced practice nurses; Battlefield acupuncture; Interdisciplinary education; Military; Pain management; Veterans.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy / history*
  • Acupuncture Therapy / methods*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Medicine / history*
  • Military Medicine / methods*
  • Military Personnel
  • Pain Management / history*
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans
  • Warfare*