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As a veteran myself, I can tell you that there is an unexplainable and unbreakable bond between veterans. This bond is present no matter what branch of the military you served in: Navy vets feel a connection to former Marines; those who served in the Army have a bond with Air Force Vets, and so on. Veterans are always willing to help out a fellow vet, no matter what.
This generous spirit and willingness to assist fellow veterans is embodied by a Texas-based acupuncturist and Army veteran named Elizabeth Peterson. Elizabeth started Acupuncture for Soldiers with a goal: to “provide affordable alternative health care to soldiers, veterans, and their families.” I had an opportunity to interview Elizabeth via email, and I am encouraged by her giving spirit, and humbled by her dedication to her fellow veterans and members of the military community.
Doug Karr: Tell us more about Acupuncture for Soldiers – what is your mission? Who are your clientele?
Elizabeth Peterson: Acupuncture for Soldier's mission is to provide affordable alternative health care to soldiers, veterans, and their families. My clientele includes all divisions of the Armed Forces. Those eligible include soldiers, veterans, and immediate family members (spouses and children), along with the immediate family of fallen soldiers.
DK: Talk a bit about your own military experience and explain how that experience led you to open Acupuncture for Soldiers.
EP: I served eight years as a Combat Medic in the Army National Guard. During my service, I was able to experience firsthand what the soldiers go through after returning from deployments. I want to assist the VA with helping the soldiers recover from their mental and physical injuries. In conjunction with Western treatment, acupuncture has proved successful in treating several combat-related injuries by treating chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, and many other ailments/disorders.
These brave young men and women need as much assistance as they can get to help them adjust back into their daily civilian lives. I have several buddies in the military who have a hard time going to counseling to talk about their problems. While on duty, soldiers I have never met before would come sit in my ambulance and want to talk about their PTSD. Several of these soldiers said they did not feel comfortable talking to their spouses about it, much less civilian doctors. During treatment, I allow my patients to open up to me, but I do not force conversation. I provide a nice, relaxing non- judgemental atmosphere where soldiers can just "be" whoever they want to be in my office. If they want to talk about their experiences in war, I listen. If they want to just relax in silence, then I am quiet with them. I find that this is nourishing for their spirit.
DK: Tell us how members of the military community can benefit from acupuncture and other alternative therapies.
EP: In many extreme cases, soldiers are prescribed medication, which does not always treat the root of the problem. Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine can treat the root of the problem which, in time, alleviates all of their symptoms. In one acupuncture treatment, numerous ailments can be addressed. During one acupuncture session, for example, a practitioner can treat stress, chronic pain, insomnia, and digestive issues. Herbal therapy is also beneficial for soldiers for a whole range of ailments--without the extreme side effects which may hinder everyday life.
DK: Your website indicates that you have a special interest in treating vets who have sustained combat injuries and are suffering from PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder]. Tell us why these are areas of interest for you and how acupuncture and alternative therapies can benefit individuals who are dealing with these issues.
EP: Recently, there have been some remarkable strides in realizing just how effective acupuncture is in the treatment of PTSD. Acupuncture, combined with other forms of standard and alternative therapies can reduce PTSD-related issues, such as anxiety, insomnia, eating disorders, tachycardia, nightmares and flashbacks, muscle tension, paranoia, and pain. It is very important that soldiers returning from combat seek therapy immediately; the sooner they receive treatment, the less likely that their PTSD will turn into a life-long condition. I have seen with my own eyes what combat-related PTSD can do to a person, and I also know how successful acupuncture can be in its treatment. Events like PTSD can leave your brain in a state of hypervigilance. Living in a constant "state of emergency" can create an array of health issues including high blood pressure. Acupuncture can subdue the sympathetic nervous system and direct your body into a state of relaxation.
Soldiers with combat injuries can get relief with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine as well. During a treatment our bodies release opiate-like substances (endorphins, enkephalins) that help to mediate pain. Whether it is phantom pain or a head injury from a blast explosion, acupuncture is beneficial in it's healing process.
DK: If you will, share with us a “success story” of a patient who has truly benefited from acupuncture or alternative therapy in general.
EP: I treated a veteran who served 10 years as a military police officer. She served six deployments, and left pieces of her behind during each tour of duty. She had several complaints, but never mentioned the most obvious one directly. She was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma two years after her last deployment. She came into my office completely fed up. She suffered from severe digestive issues, Insomnia, paranoia, anxiety, and chronic pain. She claimed that no doctor was able to help her with her problems. This led her to thoughts of suicide. Into the third treatment, she was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. After a couple of more treatments she began to open up about her PTSD. During a couple of treatments she would have flashbacks and day terrors with no memory of them once the session was over. After the Acupuncture sessions, she would claim to feel very relaxed and have virtually no stress. I treated her at least once a week and had her on an herbal prescription. After several treatments her digestion and insomnia improved greatly. Her stress level decreased and she stopped having day terrors and flashbacks. Her paranoia decreased drastically. She went from sleeping on her couch literally with her rifle to sleeping in her own bed in a matter of days with Acupuncture and Herbal therapy. Unlike before, she was able to shop in a regular grocery store with no fear that someone was going to attack her. She claimed that Acupuncture literally changed her life, and probably saved it. She is doing very well today.
As you can tell, Elizabeth is dedicated to “nourishing the spirit” of veterans and their families. I am confident that I speak for all veterans and folks in the military community when I say that Elizabeth is doing an incredible service to veterans, and I am proud to call Elizabeth my “sister” in service to our country.
It is important to note that vets are not just suffering from combat-related injuries, or from PTSD. An outrageous number of veterans have been diagnosed with cancer related to asbestos exposure during their time in the military. Asbestos cancer, or mesothelioma, claims the lives of many veterans each year, and while there is no cure for mesothelioma, the World Health Organization [WHO] and oncologists like Dr. Anne Tsao, a leading physician in the field of mesothelioma research, agree that acupuncture is successful in treating mesothelioma patients who are experiencing side-effects as a result of their treatment.
In a world where there is often unrest, conflict, and disagreements, it is a beautiful thing when one person dedicates their life to serving the lives of others, especially the lives of the men and women who have served our country. What more can you say? Thank you, Elizabeth, for your work.
To learn more about Acupuncture for Soldiers, please visit Elizabeth’s website: http://www.acupunctureforsoldiers.com/.
To connect with me on Twitter, visit http://twitter.com/douglaskarr.
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