SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Since 1999, Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) has offered acupuncture to beneficiaries as an alternative way to treat and manage pain.
In 2009, NMCSD's pain management clinic provided acupuncture to more than 2,600 beneficiaries.
The clinic provides therapeutic and non-invasive pain management therapy to patients of all ages with chronic illness.
Currently there are seven NMCSD medical staff members certified in acupuncture with three more currently in training.
"We are combining the best evidence of western and eastern medicine and that is what integrative medicine is," said Capt. Anita Hickey, NMCSD anesthesiologist and acupuncturist.
Acupuncture is used as an integrative medical treatment, combing complementary and conventional approaches. Complementary medicine is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine.
"Acupuncture is very effective in pain management," said Hickey, "Many patients don't want to take medication because of the side effects, or they can't take certain pain medication."
As part of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is among the oldest healing practices in the world. It is based on the concept that disease results from disruption in the flow of chi (vital energy) and imbalance in the forces of yin and yang.
Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific points on the body by a variety of techniques, including the insertion of thin filiform metal needles though the skin. It is intended to remove blockages in the flow of chi, restore and maintain health.
"It's another tool we can use to help patients when sometimes there is nothing else we can do for them. It's a nice option," said Lt. Cmdr. Steve Hanling, NMCSD's pain management program director.
According to Hickey, research has shown acupuncture has positive changes in the areas of the brain that is involved in perception and motivation, as well as in areas of the brain where pain registers.
In addition to pain management, acupuncture can also help treat other medical issues, such as reducing hot flashes in menopausal women, infertility, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia and help accelerate nerve re-growth.
"Acupuncture is a more holistic response. Patients want to participate in their healing process rather than have to cope with taking pills," said Hickey. "They're looking to see what they can do and how can they be involved in the process. Just because patients don't respond to one treatment doesn't mean they won't respond to another.
Acupuncture and other pain management appointments are on a referral basis. Hours of operation for the pain management clinic are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
For more information on the pain management clinic, visit http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcsd/Patients/Pages/PainClinic.aspx.
For more news from Naval Medical Center San Diego, visit www.navy.mil/local/sd/.