Battlefield Acupuncture


Alexandria, VA - February  03, 2014

Although traditional acupuncture is based on more than 2,000 points along 20 pathways in the body called meridians; Battlefield Acupuncture simplifies the treatment by focusing on five easy-access points within the ear to provide pain relief. Battlefield Acupuncture gets its name from the ease and speed of treatment and training. The treatment takes minutes; the patient can remain fully clothed; and the provider of care can be a fellow service member.

After two promising Samueli Institute pilot studies, the United States Air Force developed the first known training program to teach military primary care physicians this simple procedure. The 2008 training program brought battlefield acupuncture into primary care, where it can be used as a first-line treatment to quickly and conveniently deliver relief to patients presenting with acute and chronic pain.


Copy of Acupuncture training 2Building on those early efforts, we are now working with all three services, Veterans Health Affairs, and Battlefield Acupuncture founder retired Air Force colonel Richard Niemtzow, MD, to help standardize the training and expand it to medics and corpsmen, nurses and physician assistants. Samueli Institute is currently conducting an evaluation and assessment of the training. 

“We’re proud to work with our military partners to maximize the propagation of the Battlefield Acupuncture training across the Department of Defense. Our goal is to ensure that the training can be efficiently and effectively rolled out nationwide,” said Samueli Institute’s chief operating officer Joan Walter, JD, PA.


Much has been reported in mainstream media and by the Department of Defense (DoD) about overmedication of service members with pain. Approaches that may achieve greater pain relief with fewer medications are more appealing than ever.

Acupuncture has come to the forefront as a possible solution because it combats pain while avoiding narcotic side effects such as depression, fatigue, drug misuse and isolation. 

Samueli Institute has worked with DoD clinicians, researchers and leaders for the last decade to study the feasibility and impact of introducing acupuncture into pain treatment in primary care, specialty pain programs, and even in preparation of wounded and ill members for airevac from Germany. This pilot study was featured in the 2013 award winning film “Escape Fire” which showed the use of ear acupuncture as an alternative to narcotics.

A recent look at the literature analyzing the value of acupuncture showed where acupuncture has been found effective and which areas required more research.

Acupuncture Chart