NASHVILLE, Tennessee – More than one in five people in the U.S. who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
Now a treatment that was previously only used in the military is going mainstream and is offering a non-opioid alternative to help with chronic pain.
Elizabeth Cappadona dealt with chronic hip pain for a good majority of her life.
"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.
"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," said Jackson.
So they did a version of acupuncture that was limited to just the ear.
"The theory in acupuncture is that you can essentially treat any portion of the body through the ear," added Jackson.
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," said Jackson. "And then I put needles in their ear."
The needles help the body release chemicals that reduce the feeling of pain.
The idea of needles may make anyone cringe.
"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," Jackson said.
For Elizabeth, the treatment has done wonders for her hip.
"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."
Each session lasts for about 20 to 30 minutes.
The treatment is not covered by insurance, but Vanderbilt University Medical Center does offer the treatment for 20 dollars per session.
Jackson does say that the battlefield acupuncture is to be used in addition to other therapies.
If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at email@example.com.