JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —
Every week while he was in medical school, U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jacques Bouchard, Naval Health Clinic Charleston staff physician, shadowed an Air Force physician who would utilize acupuncture as a form of treatment for an array of conditions. According to Bouchard, it was amazing to witness patients feel positive results right before his eyes.
Acupuncture is a medical practice that involves pricking the skin or tissues with needles in order to alleviate pain and treat various physical, mental and emotional conditions.
“So I applied for the opportunity to study acupuncture through the Defense Health Agency,” said Bouchard. “I was trained through the U.S.-based Academy of Pain Research. The Department of Defense actually funded my education. There were also Army and Air Force physicians in my class.”
This is not Bouchard’s only form of treatment, nor is it his go-to. Like with any other trade, it is a tool he—as a craftsman—can employ when necessary. He is the only certified acupuncturist at NHCC.
“As with any form of treatment, the physician and patient must analyze the risk,” said Bouchard. “With acupuncture, the chances of having an adverse reaction are extremely low. The worst thing that happens if it does not work is that you’ve been poked with a needle. It is the same with any other form of treatment—sometimes it works and sometimes it does not.”
Even one of his corpsman was a bit skeptical when he began working alongside Bouchard. But after witnessing some of Bouchard’s sessions with his patients, the corpsman’s viewpoint changed on the form of treatment.
“I was shocked to learn that a provider here practices acupuncture,” said Seaman Dominic Wynn, Naval Health Clinic Charleston hospital corpsman. “I admit that I was curious when I heard that he practiced an alternative medicine. I’ve seen patients of his with a history of chronic pain come in and within a few sessions, feel remarkably better. After seeing the proof, I would say I’m a firm believer in acupuncture and that it adds to why Dr. Bouchard is such an amazing provider here.”
Bouchard utilizes his knowledge of acupuncture to compliment his Western conventional practices. Although effective, some patients may require more aggressive forms of treatment for acute symptoms.
“I use acupuncture as a tool. It is not a cure-all, but it is definitely a useful practice,” said Bouchard. “I get why people don’t fully trust it. It’s a cultural bias, I think. But I have no reason not to offer it to my patients if it has the ability to alleviate their pain or discomfort.”
Acupuncture is somewhat of a medical phenomenon. There is no concrete explanation as to how it works, although its practitioners have many theories. Due to the varying styles of use and application among practitioners, it is hard to track the continuity between the medical professionals who offer this form of treatment.
“Every doctor has their own style. It’s comparable to a chef,” said Bouchard. “No two chefs cook the same meal the same exact way, just as no two doctors’ styles are the same. That is what makes it so hard to scientifically understand how acupuncture works.”
However, any form of treatment which has been known to have at least some medical benefit—according to the World Health Organization—is enough reason for some medical professionals, like Bouchard, to further study and employ.
“I don’t view acupuncture as God’s gift to medicine or a cure-all, but it is hard to refute a practice that a culture has practiced for over 2,000 years,” said Bouchard. “And with such a minimal risk, I think it is worth some exploration in the medical community.”
According to Bouchard, he gets the most satisfaction from practicing acupuncture when a reluctant patient curiously explores this avenue of treatment and they end up asking:
“Is it supposed to work that quickly?”