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A treatment used on the battlefield is now helping combat the opioid epidemic in civilians.

Elizabeth Cappadona dealt with chronic hip pain for a good majority of her life. 

Elizabeth says, “I had the hip pain since I was probably about ten after a surgery I had and it started getting worse in my 30s.”

With her job as a triage nurse, she didn’t want to let her pain slow her down. So when Nurse Practitioner Heather Jackson offered Elizabeth a solution, she jumped at the opportunity to try battlefield acupuncture. Originally it started as a way to help those in the military deal with pain quickly. 

Heather Jackson, Assistant Director of Outpatient Surgery, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, explains, “To give a treatment for pilots and for our service men and women that obviously doing very high-tech jobs that could not have the side effects of opioids or have sedation.” 

So they did a version of acupuncture that was limited to just the ear. 

Jackson continues, “The theory in acupuncture is that you can essentially treat any portion of the body through the ear.” 

In a room filled with soothing music and aromatherapy … 

“I prop their feet up to whatever is comfortable and then I just have them relax. And then I put needles in their ear.” Says Jackson.

The needles help the body release chemicals that reduce the feeling of pain. The idea of needles may make anyone cringe, but…

I have a lot of patients get really great benefits from it and say that they haven’t had to have that extra pain pill.” Adds Jackson.

For Elizabeth, the treatment has done wonders for her hip. 

She says, “The first day after my treatment, I got out of bed and I didn’t feel that hip pain when I stood up and it’s been wonderful.”

The treatment is not covered by insurance, but Vanderbilt University Medical Center does offer the treatment for 20 dollars per session and is to be used in addition to other therapies.