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Acupuncture merits more widespread use

The Baltimore VA Medical Center is joining other VA centers in turning to a treatment called battlefield acupuncture, among other therapies, to treat pain in former service members as part of an effort to reduce reliance on opioids that no longer work or have lead to substance use problems. (Ulysses Muñoz, Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun video)

I was very pleased to read that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is starting to use acupuncture to help veterans in chronic pain (“Baltimore VA doctors try acupuncture to treat veterans’ pain,” Jan. 5). The article included a variety of opinions about whether it is possible to prove scientifically that acupuncture is effective. The 2016 review of this question by NIH's National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health concluded that "Research suggests that acupuncture can help manage certain pain conditions, but evidence about its value in other health issues is uncertain."

This statement was made based on extensive scientific studies whose results were published in such prestigious journals as the New England Journal of Medicine, The Annals of Internal Medicine, and JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association).Given this evidence, the positive feedback from VA patients who have received acupuncture treatments, and my own personal experience (acupuncture has eliminated my chronic sciatic and mid-back pain for eighteen months so far), I was disappointed to read the negative and dismissive comments made by Hopkins Professor Steven L Salzburg.

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At a time when we are experiencing a national crisis of opioid addiction, the VA and, indeed, all medical professionals need to be open to all treatment options for chronic pain. If acupuncture works for a given individual, even if we don't fully understand how it works, then let's take advantage of it. In addition, I think it is time for Medicare to recognize acupuncture as a reimbursable treatment for chronic pain. Until it does, it is doing a disservice to many thousands of seniors who could be helped by this treatment option.

Page Campbell, Towson

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