The Acus research team includes well-respected scholars and practitioners of medical acupuncture. We are committed to demonstrating that acupuncture as a primary treatment modality has multiple positive and enduring effects on individual service members and veterans, as well as economic and social benefits to the community as a whole.

Since 2015, a culture of “Think Acupuncture First” has been adopted by the resident and staff physicians of the Family Medicine Residency Clinic at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. Every patient has access to medical acupuncture treatment at every appointment.

The following studies were conducted by Acus-affiliated researchers. Studies dated from 2015 to present were carried out as part of a Collaborative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between Acus Foundation and the U.S. Air Force.

Crawford, P., and Helms, J. “Outcomes of ‘Think Acupuncture First’: An Acupuncture-Training Program during Family Medicine Residency.” EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing 2019; 15(6): 429-431.

Summary: Comprehensive medical acupuncture training can be realistically integrated into family medicine residencies, resulting in more satisfied physicians who report prescribing fewer opioids.

Ledford, C., and Crawford, P. “Integrating Medical Acupuncture into Family Medicine Practice.” Am Fam Physician 2019; 100(2):76-78.

Summary: This article surveys the successful integration of medical acupuncture into family medicine practice in the military health system. It identifies positive health outcomes among patients who received medical acupuncture, and argues that now is the time to offer more medical acupuncture training to family physicians.

Pickett, H. “Battlefield Acupuncture.” J Chinese Medicine 2011;(96): online.

Summary: Overview of the Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA) auricular treatment introduced in 2001, including point placement, post-procedure instructions, and case examples.

Crawford, P; Jackson, J; and Ledford, C. “The Association between Acupuncture Training and Opioid Prescribing Practices.” Pain Medicine 2019;20(5):1056-1058.

Summary: Physicians with any medical acupuncture training prescribed fewer strong opioids compared to those without training. Physicians with advanced medical acupuncture training of 220+ hours correlated with even fewer strong opioids prescribed. Medical acupuncture can be one part of a multimodal treatment plan that advances nonaddictive alternatives to opioids.

Crawford, P., Penzien, D. and R. Coeytaux. “Reduction in Pain Medication Prescriptions and Self-Reported Outcomes Associated with Acupuncture in a Military Patient Population.” Medical Acupuncture 2017;29(4):229-231.

Summary: Opioid prescriptions decreased by 45% in patients who had medical acupuncture added to their treatment plan, with additional reductions in muscle relaxants, sleep aids, benzodiazepines, and NSAIDs. Patients reported improved symptom control, ability to function, and sense of well-being.

Crawford, P; and Kim, M. “Acupuncture for Frequent Tension-Type Headaches.” Am Fam Physician. 2016;94(3):Online.

Summary: Patients receiving medical acupuncture treatments for tension-type headaches reported a 50% reduction in headache frequency compared to a lesser reduction in control groups managed with routine care (19%) or sham acupuncture (43%), respectively.

Crawford, P; Moss, D; Crawford, A.; and Sharon, D. “Modified Battlefield Acupuncture Does Not Reduce Pain or Improve Quality of Life in Patients with Lower Extremity Surgery.” Mil Med. 2019; 184(Suppl 1):545-549.

Summary: Modified Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA)—a protocolized auricular acupuncture treatment introduced by Col. Richard Niemtzow in 2001—did not appear to reduce pain after lower extremity surgery. However, post hoc analyses showed that patients’ opioid use before and after surgery, as well as the severity of the surgery, may have confounded results and likely obscured any effects of acupuncture.

Hawks, M.; and Cook, S. “Is Acupuncture Effective for Treating Diabetic Neuropathy?” Evidence-Based Practice 2018;21(5):E1-E2.

Summary: Medical acupuncture appears to improve diabetic neuropathy symptoms. Patients treated with a combination of auricular, scalp, and body acupuncture over a 4-to-12-week period experienced global improvement in peripheral neuropathy symptoms and in gastroparesis.

Hawks, M. “Successful Treatment of Achilles Tendinopathy with Electroacupuncture: Two Cases.” Medical Acupuncture 2017; 29(3): 163-165.

Summary: This study describes two cases of successful treatment of Achilles tendinopathy, a common musculoskeletal injury in active patient populations such as the military, using electroacupuncture, an advanced medical acupuncture treatment. Both patients reported a progressive reduction of pain: one experienced a complete resolution, and the other a reduction to baseline of 2 out of 10 on the pain scale.

Kim, M; Moss, D; and Crawford, P. “Battlefield Acupuncture for Post-Partum Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing. 2019; 15(6): 409-414.

Summary: A randomized controlled trial to assess the benefit of battlefield acupuncture (BFA) for controlling post-partum pain determined there was no statistical significance in adding BFA to pain management. However, the study noted that patients’ use of opioids and the one-time only application of BFA may have obscured its analgesic effects.

Moss, D. and Crawford, P. “Ear Acupuncture for Acute Sore Throat: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” J Am Board Fam Med 2015;28(6):697-705.

Summary: Battlefield acupuncture (BFA) is associated with reduced sore throat pain for 24 hours and decreased use of pain medication for up to 48 hours. A randomized control trial determined the BFA was more effective, compared to standard therapy alone, in relieving pain from acute sore throat.

Pickett, H. “Case Series: Acupuncture and Pelvic Pain.” Medical Acupuncture 2013;25(3):238-244.

Summary: Case presentation of four patients who were successfully treated for pelvic pain with medical acupuncture in combination with osteopathy, physical therapy, and injections. Key to management of this complex syndrome is multidisciplinary coordination, of which medical acupuncture treatment is a part.

Pickett, H.; and J. Blackwell. “Acupuncture for Migraine Headache.” Am Fam Physician 2010;32(2): 1036-1037.

Summary: A review of 22 randomized controlled trials demonstrates that acupuncture reduces the frequency of migraine headaches when used as an adjunct to, or in place of, medical management.


Crawford, P.; Rupert, J.; Jackson, J.; Walkowski, S.; and Ledford, C. “Relationship of Training in Acupuncture to Physician Burnout.” J Am Board Fam Med 2019; 32(2):259-263.

Summary: This study suggests that training in medical acupuncture correlates to a reduction in physician burnout. Doctors develop a close rapport with patients and also see immediate benefits with acupuncture treatments, thus decreasing both depersonalization of patients and emotional exhaustion.

Fisher, C.; Ledford, C.; and Crawford, P. “Explaining Acupuncture in Family Medicine: Patients’ and Physicians’ Use of Metaphor.” Journal of Communication in Healthcare 2019;12(3-4):180-188.

Summary: Physicians and patients use metaphors to describe, and thus make sense of, medical acupuncture. Traditionally Eastern medical practice is translated into familiar concepts, and the results could be used to develop further interventions and/or translational tools.

Fisher C.; Ledford C.; Moss D; and Crawford, P. “Physician Communication to Enhance Patient Acupuncture Engagement in Family Medicine.” J Health Commun. 2018;23(5):422-429.

Summary: Through interviews with physician-acupuncturists and patients, this study described the communication approaches that impacted patients’ engagement with acupuncture, including shared decision-making, explaining treatment outcomes, not being pushy, carefully choosing language, speaking with the same physician, and having the doctor be responsive to the patient.

Ledford, C.; Fisher, C.; and Crawford, P. “A Qualitative Study of the Communication Process for Medical Acupuncture in Family Medicine.” Family Medicine 2018;50(5):353-358.

Summary: This study documents how physicians talk to patients about medical acupuncture in three phases: introducing acupuncture, explaining the medical process, and evaluating treatment outcomes. It proposes these phases as an initial model for teaching communication about medical acupuncture in family medicine.

Ledford, C.; Fisher, C.; Moss, D.; and Crawford, P. “Critical Factors to Practicing Medical Acupuncture in Family Medicine: Patient and Physician Perspectives.” J Am Board Fam Med 2018;31(2):236-242.

Summary: Patients and physicians report what factors and barriers both help and hinder the practice of medical acupuncture in family medicine. Strategic approaches to these barriers will help physicians and institutions enhance care delivery and patient engagement.

Future Research

Research plans include additional health data analysis of medical acupuncture treatment protocols, and a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of medical acupuncture on sleep disturbances and to assess the perceptions and behavior of patients and providers toward pain management without opioids, particularly for those living with chronic pain.