Acupuncture is a technique in which practitioners stimulate specific points on the body by inserting thin needles through the skin. It has long been one of the practices used in traditional Chinese medicine and is now available to Veterans at the Benton Harbor Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in southwest Michigan.
“My shoulder pain is lower and tremors in my right hand have slowed.”
Dr. Ali Hussain is a family medicine physician at the clinic. He completed a nine-month acupuncture for physicians training program at Harvard Medical School in 2015 and has been practicing it ever since.
Used for PTSD
“Pain is only a part of what we treat with acupuncture,” Hussain said. “We have Veterans who receive acupuncture treatments for Parkinsonian tremors, diabetic neuropathy, sinus allergies and many other symptoms. We also have Veterans who come in for acupuncture just for their PTSD symptoms.”
Vietnam-era Veteran Terry Schroeder has struggled with pain, substance-abuse and PTSD symptoms for decades. He sought help through PT, rehabilitation and pharmaceutical treatments, but still struggled.
He came in for routine treatment and Dr. Hussain offered an alternative.
“I’ve been a student of martial arts, and I was completely comfortable with trying acupuncture,” Schroeder said. “I started this as a four-session trial, and after three sessions, my shoulder pain is lower, and the tremors in my right hand have slowed. I’m happier, more motivated and I’ve slept better than I have in a long time.”
Schroeder is continuing his other routine treatment but hopes to add monthly acupuncture to his regimen.
Acupuncture has long been one of the practices used in traditional Chinese medicine.
VA is at the forefront of acupuncture therapy in the US. VA research and treatment using it has advanced rapidly in the last decade. In 2015, VA partnered with the Department of Defense to train practitioners in an auricular protocol known as Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA) for the treatment of pain.
BFA training has been offered to VA providers nationwide. Today, over 88% of VA facilities offer the treatment in some form to Veterans in addition to their traditional treatment.
“We’re lucky to have Dr. Hussain on staff,” said head nurse Michelle Payne. “Some of us have been trained in BFA, but our Veterans have found a trusted provider in Dr. Hussain.”
“Acupuncture has been a godsend for me,” said Veteran Joseph King, who struggles with TBI-related migraines. I depended heavily on medications, which put me in a fog. Dr. Hussain challenged me to try acupuncture and now I rarely require my medications. I really feel like a new person.”
Acupuncture is one of the Complimentary and Integrated Health (CIH) approaches to basic care. That means doctors can refer Veterans to private practices in the community care network.
But Veterans in Benton Harbor don’t have to go beyond their own clinic. Dr. Hussain hopes to expand these offerings as well as other non-pharmaceutical pain management offerings to every VA clinic in southwest Michigan.