Stephen Thielke, MD, MS, MA

Dr. Stephen Thielke is a Professor in the University of Washington Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences and one of three recipients of the 2020-2021 CLEAR Center Pilot & Feasibility Awards.

Dr. Thielke’s project is entitled, Propensity-Matched Analysis of Effects of Battle Acupuncture in Veterans with Musculoskeletal Pain, and will characterize the utilization of Battle Acupuncture (BFA) for musculoskeletal conditions in the VA health care system, and compare opioid-related outcomes between those receiving BFA for musculoskeletal pain conditions and those not receiving BFA.

Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA) is a safe, quick non-pharmacologic intervention for pain, which can be administered by clinicians with four hours of training, in various clinic settings. Research suggests significant immediate pain reduction after BFA, but uncertainty remains regarding BFA’s effects on opioid analgesic use in patients with musculoskeletal pain. Dr. Thielke and his team will examine VA Corporate Data Warehouse (CDW) data from all Veterans with musculoskeletal conditions treated at VAs that offered BFA between 2015 and 2019 and characterize the use of BFA for musculoskeletal conditions. They will then compare Veterans with musculoskeletal pain who received BFA vs. did not receive BFA, with regards to opioid outcomes.

On his work, Dr. Thielke says, “Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA) is a quick, easy-to-administer treatment for pain which has been used in the VA for about five years.  Its effectiveness is unclear, particularly whether it can help patients prevent or reduce opioid use.  This study will, by comparing matched Veterans from across the country who did and did not receive BFA, ascertain if it has impacts on opioid use.  This will help advance the understanding of safe and effective treatments for musculoskeletal pain”.