Acupuncture & Other Alternative Medicine Reducing Use of Pain Killers in the Army

Acupuncture and other forms of alternative and complementary medicine are helping reduce the use of opioids to block pain in Army patients, the service’s assistant surgeon general said in a report.

Brig. Gen. Norvell V. Coots, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Command and assistant surgeon general for force projection, testified Wednesday, at a hearing of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee about overmedication concerns.

In 2011, 26 percent of all service members were prescribed at least one type of opioid medication, but this number was brought down to 24 percent last year, partly due to the use of acupuncture, yoga and other alternatives to medication, Coots said.

“It is a small difference, but I think it still represents a big cultural change and a move ahead,” he told the committee.

Army Medicine has been working to change its culture since 2010, when the Pain Management Task Force issued recommendations, including acupuncture, meditation and biofeedback, according to Coots, who explained the Army has had a large upswing in the use of alternative medicine in the past few years and its use has been written into the Army’s Comprehensive Pain Management Campaign.

“All the statistics are showing now that with a big push for cultural change with integration of these alternative modalities, that we’re seeing a downturn in opioid usage across the military, particularly across the Army,” Coots told the committee.

Robert Petzel, under secretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs, also testified at the hearing. He said VA has added chiropractic care, massages, mindfulness meditation, exercise therapy and relaxation therapies to its treatment plan for pain.

“The burden of pain on veterans is considerable,” Petzel said.

In a written statement to the committee, Coots and his co-author Col. Kevin T. Galloway, Army Pain Management program director, also pointed out that Interdisciplinary Pain Management Centers, known as IPMCs, are being established at each of the Army’s eight medical centers. The IPMCs will be staffed by a multidisciplinary team of providers working to rehabilitate patients through a program that includes alternative treatments, according to the report.

“Treating pain is one of medicine’s oldest and most fundamental responsibilities, yet modern medicine continues to struggle in its efforts to understand pain mechanisms and to relieve pain and suffering of our patients,” Coots said.

The Centers for Disease Control identified prescription medication abuse as an “epidemic” in the United States, Coots said, adding “The military is not immune to these challenges. Effective solutions must involve innovative strategies, comprehensive solutions and collaborative efforts,” Coots told the senators.



Editor’s Advice: My New Year of Self-Care

Last year I wrote a blog post “Five Resolutions for a Spiritual New Year,” and got great feedback from our readers about it. These five resolutions are still amazing ways to start your new year off right, so be sure to take a look if you missed it.

This year I wanted to share a little more of myself with you, and ask you to embark on a journey of self-care with me. So many of us spend time taking care of others – whether it’s at work, at home, with friends or extended family. If someone we care about is in need, we will drop everything to be by that person’s side. But do we do the same for ourselves? In fact, I bet some of you are so busy, you haven’t even noticed your own body and mind crying out for attention.

Do you keep getting sick, or still can’t get rid of that cold from last month? Maybe your immune system is trying to tell you something.

Are you suffering from chronic pain in some way, but just keep popping ibuprofen in hopes that it will go away. Maybe your body needs rest, or your mind is creating a distraction in the body for something emotional that is going on.

This year, I decided to focus on self-care because for me, it has always been an area I am lacking. It really became clear to me this summer when I found myself in bed with Shingles, and then a few months later with a neck spasm that wouldn’t let go for more than three weeks! I decided to take a look within and see where I am abandoning myself. And it wasn’t a pretty picture.

Here is how I am starting the year off differently:

1– I found a new yoga studio in December, and have been going to classes two to three times per week. It’s only been five weeks, but I notice a big difference in my mental, emotional and physical life.

2– I’ve decided to try acupuncture since three different people in a matter of weeks told me how wonderful it was, and how much they believe I would benefit from it. (O.K. universe, I got the hint. I’ll make an appointment!)

3– I am doing another cycle of the 28-day book “The Magic.” If you missed my blog post about this book, you need to take a look. It produces amazing results and helps to keep you in a state of gratitude – the best place to be!

4– Recently, I received a new book to review. It’s called “May Cause Miracles: A 40-Day Guidebook of Subtle Shifts for Radical Change and Unlimited Happiness,” by Gabrielle Bernstein. Since I don’t believe in coincidence, I decided to embark on this 40-day journey of learning to release fear and replace it with love. Bernstein’s work is based on “A Course in Miracles,” and so far (it’s Day 5) I am amazed by the simplicity yet effectiveness of its exercises.

5– In the coming weeks, I plan to review an online course by Sonia Choquette called “Creating Your Heart’s Desire,” which helps bring you back in touch with your spirit, and tap into the power of attraction. Stay tuned for a review on this in a future Editor’s Advice column!

These are just a few of the ways I’m focusing on self-care and improving my life – physically, mentally and emotionally. I’ve incorporated each of these into my daily routine, and I already feel lighter.

I encourage you to pick at least one thing to do for yourself this year, and stick to it. Whether its taking yoga once a week, meditating for 5 minutes every morning and night, taking an online course, following a self-help guided book … or just doing something nice for yourself at least once a day. The goal is to check in with yourself and find what area of your life needs you the most. And then show up for yourself the way you would your best friend.

Join me, and let me know how your mission goes! Leave a comment, or email me at

Blessing and love to you all in 2013!


Tammy Mastroberte
Founder, Publisher & Editorial Director
Elevated Existence Magazine


Acupuncture Shown to Reduce Headaches, Back Pain

Suffering from headaches, back pain or both? A new study conducted by researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York shows acupuncture outperformed both placebo and conventional pain therapies. They published the study results in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The findings “provide the most robust evidence to date that acupuncture is a reasonable referral option,” the authors wrote in the article.

The research, funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, had researchers conduct a meta-analysis of data from 29 prior studies involving nearly 18,000 adults, according to an article in The Sunday Leader.

The original studies were done with patients reporting chronic pain from a variety of issues, including neck, shoulder and back pain, arthritis, and recurring headaches. Participants in each study were randomly assigned to treatment with acupuncture, standard treatments such as drugs and physical therapy, or fake acupuncture, which inserted needles at points other than the traditional meridians, the report stated.

Using a scale from zero to 100, the average participant’s pain measured 60 before anything was tested on them. Conventional methods brought the pain down to 43, fake acupuncture brought it down to 35, and the actual acupuncture dropped pain to 30, according to the research.

Three Alternative Therapies for Pain Relief

For people seeking alternatives to traditional medicine or medication for pain will be happy to know that studies on a variety of alternative methods are showing promising results. Presenters at the recent EFIC Congress “Pain in Europe VII” stated that acupuncture, acupressure and aromatherapy can be efficient in reducing pain, according to a recent report from

At the EFIC Congress, Professor Edzard Ernst from Exeter, UK, said some studies regarding acupuncture, acupressure, and aromatherapy have been shown to reduce pain, and presenter, Dr. Winfried Meissner of Jena, Germany, said acupuncture used after surgery can provide a moderate reduction in pain.

“Our own studies show that acupuncture…produces similar effects in the brain as pain relievers. There is a clear indication of a specific analgesic effect through acupuncture,” the report stated.

Also, Dr. Konrad Streitberger of Bern, Switzerland said: “Studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) showed that real acupuncture not only causes stronger activation or deactivation response patterns than placebo treatment in pain associated areas of the brain, but also that this effect can be modulated by a positive expectation.”

The report also noted a study on aromatherapy in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, where researchers tested whether lavender oil aromatherapy could reduce the pain of needle insertion in 30 volunteers. One group received oxygen using a face mask coated with lavender oil for 5 minutes, and the other did not, and those with the face mask “had significantly reduced pain and stress associated with needle insertion compared with controls,” the report stated.

Another study in the same journal tested aromatherapy in combination with acupressure, used on stroke patients with hemiplegic shoulder pain. “One group received aromatherapy (lavender, rosemary, and peppermint) and acupressure treatments twice daily for two weeks, while a second group received the same amount of treatments, but with acupressure only. Although patients in both groups reported a marked reduction in pain after treatment, patients in the aromatherapy plus acupressure group fared better,” the report stated.