The author of the Sept. 6 article “IED specialists, ‘Huskys’ rumble right over bombs” is way off on the amount of explosives that Husky and MRAP vehicles can withstand without serious injury to the occupants. He stated that “[t]he Husky is built to withstand a 2,000-pound explosion” and “an 800-pound blast under one of these machines probably wouldn’t cause serious injury to anyone inside.”

A 2,000-pound underbelly blast would send a Husky flying over a mountain and most likely kill the driver.

I have done two tours of route clearance, one in each theater, and am not a novice on this subject. Maybe the author just accidentally added a zero behind each of his numbers.

Staff Sgt. Paul Ebsen

Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan

Acupuncture no pain panacea

I was frustrated and saddened by your article on treating soldiers with acupuncture (“Military turns to acupuncture as alternative to prescription painkillers,” Aug. 29). Frustrated that we are using unproven therapies and that your article was so credulous. Saddened to think of our wounded warriors being subjected to such therapies for their very real symptoms.

It is true that acupuncture is a fairly low-risk (though not no-risk) procedure, but it is also shown to have virtually no benefit and is costly and time-consuming to provide. All of the personal anecdotes in the article are no match for well-designed research.

A July article in the New England Journal of Medicine reviewed the latest and greatest evidence. Written by supporters of the practice, it conceded that acupuncture simply does not work. It reads in part: “[T]he most recent well-powered clinical trials of acupuncture for chronic low back pain showed that sham acupuncture was as effective as real acupuncture. The simplest explanation of such findings is that the specific therapeutic effects of acupuncture, if present, are small, whereas its clinically relevant benefits are mostly attributable to contextual and psychosocial factors, such as patients’ beliefs and expectations.”

Translation: The placebo effect is real. We’ve known this for decades.

The placebo effect is a powerful thing leading to improvement in symptoms and even objective signs. When determining the actual value of treatments, however, it needs to be carefully controlled for. This is not easy to do with acupuncture, as most people know when they are being poked with a needle and when they are not.

There is still much we have to learn about the human body and managing pain. The hallmark of modern medicine is to be constantly evolving, and re-examining itself as new and better evidence emerges. For now, however, acupuncture cannot be considered an effective therapy. Individuals can use it on their own if they feel that it helps, but to pretend like it is a valuable use of taxpayer money or of the limited resources of the military health care system is simply false. Most importantly, however, passing off such methods to our wounded warriors as legitimate treatment for their pain is a disservice. It’s not enough to really want something to work. Ironically, really caring for these heroes means applying cold, hard science.

Maj. Timothy Vedder

Mosul, Iraq

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