Battle Creek VA Medical Center
Acupuncture is on point
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.
Dr. Ali Hussain is a Family Medicine Physician who has been working at the Benton Harbor CBOC since January 2020. He completed a nine-month acupuncture for physicians training program at Harvard Medical School in 2015 and has been practicing it ever since. “Pain is only a part of what we treat here with acupuncture,” remarked Hussain. “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,” said Schroeder. “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.
VA is at the forefront of acupuncture therapy in the US. VHA research and treatment using acupuncture has advanced rapidly in the last decade. In 2015, VHA 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 VHA providers at nationwide, and today, over 88% of VHA facilities offer acupuncture in some form to Veterans in addition to their traditional treatment.
However, not every facility has a fully licensed acupuncturist on staff. “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 Joseph King, a Veteran 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 has been listed as one of the Complimentary and Integrated Health (CIH) approaches to basic care, which means that Veterans can be referred through private practices in the community care network. But Veterans in Benton Harbor don’t have to go beyond their own CBOC. Dr. Hussain hopes to expand these offerings as well as other non-pharmaceutical pain management offerings to every CBOC in southwest Michigan. Until then, Benton Harbor will remain “on point” with this treatment.