Q: What is medical acupuncture?

A: Acupuncture is a way to encourage the body to promote natural healing and improved function. This is done by inserting tiny needles at very precise acupuncture points and applying heat and/or electrical stimulation.

Q: Is this treatment performed by a licensed physician (MD or DO)?

A: A doctor practicing medical acupuncture has a level of knowledge and sophistication regarding pharmacology (medications), medical and surgical procedures, laboratory testing and other diagnostic modalities such as CT scan and MRI that can only result from a full, formal medical training.

A physician practicing medical acupuncture has a minimum of 7 years of medical education before she or he performs a single treatment:

  • 4 years of undergraduate education
  • 4 years of medical school
  • 1 year of internship
  • 3-7 years of residency (training in a specialty)
  • 1 year of fellowship (training in a subspecialty)

Doctors who have completed the Acus military medical acupuncture training have more than 300 hours of study and hands-on training. After practicing acupuncture for two years, they become eligible to sit for the board certification examination through the American Board of Medical Acupuncture.

The Acus training program at Nellis AFB is designed for physicians beginning their second and third years of residency in family medicine.

Q: How is Acus-brand acupuncture different?

A: Acus military medical acupuncture is unique. There is no other acupuncture training like it.

What we teach is based on a decade of developing and testing acupuncture techniques that we have found best address combat-related pain and stress. These are military-unique conditions that necessitate military-specific treatments.

An important part of our training is also to teach our doctors to address the emotional dimensions of their patients. We teach them to look for the problem behind the problem. The moral injury of war may be invisible but it can manifest physically in the body.

Q: What is a Preceptor?

A: “Preceptors” are what we call our incredible team of physician-teachers.

Each Preceptor has completed years of medical acupuncture education and practice before they are even invited to become instructors. What follows is a rigorous process of pedagogical training that lasts for more than one year.

The Acus Preceptors who teach military medical acupuncture at Nellis AFB have been teaching physicians for more than two decades.

Q: How much does it cost?

A: To train one physician in our specialized Acus military medical acupuncture course costs $25,000. This includes all course materials, professional instruction, and equipment. Our average student-to-teacher ratio in the Nellis training program is 3:1.

Q: How much does it save?

A: Initial results from our utilization study at Nellis AFB have shown significant cost savings in terms of off-base referrals and hours lost from duty.

In the first year (2016) of prioritizing acupuncture as a primary treatment modality, Nellis officials have estimated a cost savings of $250,000 in off-base referrals for pain management.

We also have qualitative results at Nellis that are difficult to monetize but nonetheless demonstrate the positive impact of acupuncture treatment:

  • We have seen decreased rates of opioid prescription (~50%) in patients receiving acupuncture compared to those who do not.
  • We have seen a reduction in medication usage (~10-30%) among patients with anxiety disorders (e.g., PTSD, generalized anxiety).
  • We have seen decreased referrals for pain management, chiropractic, and neurosurgery (~35%).
  • Patient surveys report across-the-board improvements in physical symptoms and quality of life.