PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Injury is often a consequence suffered by men and women serving in the military. The physical pain that injury causes can linger beyond their service and into their civilian life. Finding a safe way to manage that pain is critical.
One option is a relatively new interpretation of a practice that dates back about 8,000 years ago in China. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, it’s providing real results for a veteran from Jackson Township, Luzerne County.
“It’s across my back and down both of my legs,” said Richard Manta. He deals with chronic back and leg pain ever since a fall he suffered in 1991 while serving in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. Anti inflammatory and opioid medication caused him unwanted side effects. “I just couldn’t take the stomach pain any more,” he said.
That’s when a Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center doctor suggested Mr. Manta consider an alternative to pills called battlefield acupuncture. “I said, ‘Nah. That’s not for me. That’s just hocus pocus.”
Mr. Manta changed his mind and began receiving battlefield acupuncture about a year ago. “I found out that it’s not hocus pocus. It works. And the needles stay in and the longer they stay in the better you feel.”
Unlike traditional acupuncture points ranging from head to toe, battlefield acupuncture targets the ears. Tiny semi-permanent needles are inserted at five specific sites in each ear to suppress pain transmission at the spinal cord and produce endorphins that reduce the feeling of pain. “A functional MRI you can actually see the pain signals in the brain and areas go down,” said Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center Associate Chief of Staff of Behavioral Health and Chief of Psychiatry Marcia Flugsrud-Breckenridge, MD, Ph.D.
Dr. Flugsrud-Breckenridge administers battlefield acupuncture to dozens of vets each month. “It’s amazing how rapidly it will work. It’s not only for pain, it’s good for depression. It’s good for anxiety,” she said. Mr. Manta added, “And it’s a big difference in my life and sleeping habits and eating habits and a lot of other things.”
Mr. Manta receives battlefield acupuncture no more than once a month to maximize his body’s response. The technique was first developed in 2001. It’s actually used to treat painful injuries on the battlefield without the impairment which medication can cause.