ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WUSA) -- Dr. Nisha Money spent years as a general practice physician in the United States Air Force. At one point, she became the Surgeon General's chief of Air Force Fitness at USAF headquarters here in Washington, DC. But this M.D.'s approach to healing both soldiers and civilians has always integrated non-Western medicine, like the centuries-old practice of acupuncture.
Dr. Money says the technique taps into energy meridians that run throughout the human body. "Acupuncture actually stimulates these different energy center points in the body that have access to different organs and different muscle groups in the body," she explains.
But the "organ" that fascinates Dr. Money most is the brain, and what can happen to it in modern combat, in zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. Specifically, she focus on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the more recently recognized traumatic brain injury (TBI).
"It is a fairly new injury, the signature wound right now of the current battles," says Dr. Money.
And a lot of it it happening in the field when the IED's blow up or when the Humvees are hitting a road side bomb, or bumping up against other things. A lot of our soldiers and veterans are actually being jostled quite a bit in the car are actually having micro trauma. They are repeatedly exposed to blast injuries. So its causing the brain to actually bounce back and forth a little bit in the skull. And when you have enough of that happening, its causing some brain damage."
Traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress often go hand in hand. Dr. Money says there has long been a stigma in the military around seeking mental health help compared to treatment for physical battle wounds. That's starting to change- and Dr. Money wants to reach even more troops and veterans with a holistic approach that incorporates traditional treatments like medication and counseling, as well as meditation and other mind-body modalities.
She says, "It not only expands my tool box as a physician, it expands the patient's toolbox in ways that they can help themselves."
A perfect example is something called iRest, the project code name for Integrative Restoration. Basically, iREST introduces soldiers being treated for PTSD at Walter Reid Army Medical Center to the benefits of yoga.
"Yoga helps the individual calm the mind and the body down," says Dr. Money.
Its worked for Tom Rusneck, a Vietnam veteran who for years found himself agitated, hyper-vigilant, and unable to sleep.
"I have been doing this yoga nidra now for about 3 years and I have gotten to a point now that I don't have to take any medication for my blood pressure. And I don't take anything for sleeping so it has made a big improvement."
"I have gotten to a point now that I don't have to take any medication for my blood pressure. And I don't take anything for sleeping, so it is a big improvement."
Veterans and active duty soldiers can try out a yoga class specifically for them at MINT Health Club for free. The next class is Sunday, July 24, 2011 at 3:00pm. MINT is located at 1001 16th St. NW email firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP.