Use of Acupuncture in the United States Military Healthcare System

Cathaleen Madsen*, Avni Patel, Megan Vaughan, Tracey Koehlmoos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objectives: The Military Healthcare System (MHS) shows increasing interest in acupuncture as an alternative to opioids for pain control. However, specific factors associated with this procedure in the MHS are not well-described in literature. This study examines usage within the MHS to determine patterns among the diagnoses, provider types, and facilities associated with acupuncture. Materials and Methods: Acupuncture-treated patients were identified from TRICARE claims data in the MHS Data Repository as having at least one acupuncture treatment in fiscal year (FY) 2014. Bivariate analysis was performed to determine demographics, diagnoses, and number of visits, for both active-duty and nonactive-duty personnel. Descriptive statistics were used to show associated provider and facility types. Results: A total of 15,761 people received acupuncture in the MHS in FY 2014. Use of acupuncture was greater for Army service, white race, and senior enlisted rank overall, and for males ages 26-35 among active-duty and females ages 46-64 among nonactive-duty beneficiaries. A cumulative 76% of diagnoses were for musculoskeletal or nerve and system issues. Approximately 60% of patients received acupuncture from physicians, 16% from physical therapists or chiropractors, and 9.7% from physician extenders. Specific acupuncture techniques (traditional, auricular, etc.) could not be determined from the data set. Conclusions: The most common diagnoses associated with acupuncture are consistent with pain management. However, full analysis is hampered by inconsistent coding and lack of granularity regarding specific techniques. Given the popularity of acupuncture in the MHS, further research is necessary to explore the full scope of this intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-38
Number of pages6
JournalMedical Acupuncture
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • acupuncture
  • integrative medicine
  • military health system
  • pain management
  • physician extender


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