Winter 2009, Volume 2, Issue 1
“Acupuncture occurs at various bases because you have an interest on the part of physicians that wish to practice it along with their specialties, but there is no requirement that acupuncture be practiced at any military facility.”


Editor's Log: Change in the Military,
Change in the Society »

Chiropractic at the Veterans
Administration—Interview with
Clinton “Chip” Gowan, DC »

Acupuncture in the Air Force—
Interview with Richard Niemtzow,

From Military Medic to Chiropractic
Student—Interview with Valerie Tolen »

Nutrition News »

Widening the Circle of Compassion »

In Praise of Vegetable Gardens »

Acupuncture: Where East Meets West »

Health News

The Daily HIT Blog

Acupuncture in the Air Force
Interview with Richard C. Niemtzow, MD, PhD, MPH
Col. Richard Niemtzow, MD, PhD, MPH, is a military medical physician who practices acupuncture on a full-time basis for the United States Air Force. He is the President-Elect of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture and serves as Major Consultant to the Air Force Surgeon General for complementary and alternative medicine.

Dr. Niemtzow received his undergraduate degree from Goddard College in Vermont and his medical degree from the Faculty of Medicine in Montpellier, France. He received his PhD from Pacific Western University in California and his Masters in Public Health from the Medical College of Wisconsin. He did his residency in radiation oncology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and received his acupuncture certification through the UCLA Acupuncture Course for Physicians. Dr. Niemtzow is board certified by the American Board of Forensic Medicine and the American Board of Forensic Examiners.

In this interview with Dr. Daniel Redwood, Dr. Niemtzow discusses the value of acupuncture for conditions involving pain, as well as his pioneering work developing effective and cost-effective acupuncture methods for dry eye and dry mouth. He also discusses the promise of “battlefield acupuncture,” in which points on the ear are used to interrupt pain signals in the brain.

For further information on Dr. Niemtzow’s work, visit

How long have you been practicing medicine in military settings? And at what point did you start including acupuncture as part of your practice?

I’ve been practicing medicine in the military since 1980 and I’ve included acupuncture in my practice since 1994.

Did you find any resistance to your using this method, which was, and probably still is, relatively unconventional in military medicine in Western nations?

I wouldn’t say there was resistance as much as there was skepticism. The majority of my colleagues had no idea what the capabilities of acupuncture were. So consequently, they did not wish to recommend or refer patients to my practice.

How did that change over time?

As they began to see successes in the types of patients that they were not able to treat successfully, they began to refer more of their most difficult cases to me. And they became somewhat intrigued.

What kinds of conditions were involved? Was it mainly pain or other things as well?

Most of the cases that were referred to me were, of course, pain. This consisted of back pain, neck pain, large joint pain, as well as other conditions like fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome.

At this point, how many doctors are practicing acupuncture in the military?

There are roughly 40 other physicians practicing acupuncture, none of which are full-time acupuncturists. I was the first full-time acupuncturist, starting in 1999. Then, about two years ago my partner became the second full-time acupuncturist in the Armed Forces.

You now practice at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Do you also see patients elsewhere?