Battlefield acupuncture was developed as a protocol for the rapid relief of pain, with the intention that it could be used in military battlefields as well as in emergency situations.
Battlefield acupuncture uses is a set of acupuncture points on the ear (also known as auricular acupuncture), which is tailored to the type and location of the pain. Tsai et al, (2016) described 4 cases in which emergency physicians with brief training in the protocol treated patients with acute pain when opioid-based painkillers were unsuitable.
This style of acupuncture has been found effective as an adjunct for low back pain in a USA ED setting (Emergency Dept., A&E equivalent, with a statistically significant benefit over usual care alone (Fox et al, 2018; n=30; p=0.04).
A 2017 systematic review of 6 trials (458 participants) found that while study numbers were limited, “ear acupuncture, either as stand-alone or as-an-adjunct technique, significantly reduced pain scores and has potential benefits for use in the ED [emergency department]” (Jan et al, 2017).
Elsewhere, battlefield acupuncture also has useful applications to trauma related issues, including PTSD and following traumatic injury (Walker et al, 2016; Niemtzow, 2007).
Acupuncturists (MBAcC) Rachel Peckham and Samina Haider set up an acupuncture NADA group in a Mosque in London in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, for trauma application: There is an informative video about this from the British Acupuncture Council showing the NADA protocol in action in a group setting, and patients discussing the treatment: BAcC auricular (NADA) video the background and uses are also discussed.
A systematic review protocol was put forward recently (Zhang et al, 2020) for application to migraine, so it will be of interest to see the outcome here.
Fox, L.M., Murakami, M., Danesh, H. and Manini, A.F., 2018. Battlefield acupuncture to treat low back pain in the emergency department. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 36(6), pp.1045-1048.
Guthrie, R.M. and Chorba, R., 2016. Physical Therapy Treatment Of Chronic Neck Pain A Discussion And Case Study: Using Dry Needling And Battlefield Acupuncture. Journal of special operations medicine: a peer reviewed journal for SOF medical professionals, 16(1), pp.1-5.
Jan, A.L., Aldridge, E.S., Rogers, I.R., Visser, E.J., Bulsara, M.K. and Niemtzow, R.C., 2017. Does ear acupuncture have a role for pain relief in the emergency setting? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medical acupuncture, 29(5), pp.276-289.
Niemtzow, R.C., 2007. Battlefield acupuncture. Medical Acupuncture, 19(4), pp.225-228.
Tsai, S.L., Fox, L.M., Murakami, M. and Tsung, J.W., 2016. Auricular acupuncture in emergency department treatment of acute pain. Annals of emergency medicine, 68(5), pp.583-585.
Walker, P.H., Pock, A., Ling, C.G., Kwon, K.N. and Vaughan, M., 2016. Battlefield acupuncture: opening the door for acupuncture in Department of Defense/Veteran’s Administration health care. Nursing outlook, 64(5), pp.491-498.
Zhang, F., Shen, Y., Fu, H., Zhou, H. and Wang, C., 2020. Auricular acupuncture for migraine: a systematic review protocol. Medicine, 99(5).