FARGO, ND — Battlefield Acupuncture is a unique auricular procedure use by many VHA facilities, according to a new study which suggested that, based on past research, it can reduce pain for up to two weeks.

The report in Medical Acupuncture pointed out, however, that the long-term effects of BFA and its potential to decrease opioid use previously were not analyzed. To remedy that, Fargo, ND, VA Healthcare System-led researchers evaluated the effectiveness of BFA to decrease chronic pain immediately and six months after treatment, as well as to decrease the number of opioids needed for management of chronic pain.1

The retrospective cohort study compared veterans who received BFA and were prescribed opioids for their chronic pain to veterans who did not receive BFA, with the treatment group including 24 veterans who received BFA and had opioid contracts. The comparison group consisted of 23 randomly selected veterans who had opioid contracts but did not receive BFA.

Researchers used a numeric rating scale to measure pain before and after treatment, as well as three months prior and six months post. They also compared average morphine mg equivalents for opioids three months prior and six months pot treatment.

Results indicated that significant average decreases of 1.3 points on the NRS occurred in 66.1% of veterans immediately after the procedure. No significant decreases in pain were found, however, and no significant changes of the average number of opioids over nine months analyzed were documented.

“BFA is effective for immediate pain reduction,” the authors concluded. “Further research with a randomized controlled trial in a larger population is needed to assess BFA effects on chronic pain and opioid dependency.”

  1. Montgomery AD, Ottenbacher R. Battlefield Acupuncture for Chronic Pain Management in Patients on Long-Term Opioid Therapy. Med Acupunct. 2020;32(1):38‐44. doi:10.1089/acu.2019.1382.