Acupuncture for the Treatment of Sports Injuries in an Austere Environment.

For sports injuries in an austere environment, narcotic pain medications are often unavailable or have limiting side effects like sedation or constipation. Meanwhile, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications are frequently associated with gastrointestinal side effects and acetaminophen liver toxicity. A trained physician can rapidly use certain acupuncture techniques in an austere environment with potentially fewer side effects. Current medical literature notes low to moderate quality evidence for the use of acupuncture in lower back pain and osteoarthritis of the knee. There is emerging evidence for the use of acupuncture in traumatic brain injury. The U.S. military uses acupuncture in deployed settings to treat battlefield injuries with promising results. This article reviews the military’s current use of acupuncture to treat injuries in a deployed setting and how this may translate to the care of a sports injury in an austere environment.