Acupuncture Gives Hope to Patients with PTSD

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a severe type of anxiety disorder. PTSD results from a person witnessing or being involved in a traumatic event that causes intense fear, helplessness or horror, such as, a natural disaster, rape, childhood abuse, a tragic accident, or war. Signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder typically begin within three months of a traumatic event but can, in some instances, occur years after the event.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder include:

  1. Intrusive memories – flashbacks and nightmares of events
  2. Avoidance and numbing – feeling emotionally numb, hopelessness about the future, avoiding anything that is a reminder of the precipitating event.
  3. Hyperarousal – increased anxiety, irritability or anger, self-destructive behavior (e.g., excessive drinking), and an exaggerated startle response (jumping at sounds)

Acupuncture as Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

In the last couple of years, acupuncture, has been getting more attention as a treatment for PTSD, particularly from military and veterans since soldiers post combat are at a high risk for suffering from PTSD. The results from acupuncture are hopeful. Time and again, acupuncture has proven to be an effective modality for treating the symptoms of PTSD.

Acupuncturists Without Borders (AWB), a group that previously provided relief to the survivors of the earthquake in Haiti and hurricane in New Orleans, launched The Military Stress Recovery Project. This organization provides free acupuncture treatments for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as their families. Treated military personnel have reported improved mental clarity, less anxiety, and a reduction in stress.

There are good precedents for the use of acupuncture to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Walter Reed Medical Center, a military hospital, has begun to investigate acupuncture as a viable treatment for returning veterans.

Researchers at the University of Louisville School of Medicine conducted a clinical trial examining the effects of acupuncture on the symptoms of PTSD. They analyzed depression, anxiety, and impairment in 73 people who had been diagnosed with PTSD and found that acupuncture provided treatment effects similar to group cognitive-behavioral therapy. Both acupuncture and cognitive-behavioral therapy were superior to the control group. Additionally, treatment effects of acupuncture and group therapy were maintained for 3 months after the end of treatment.

Why does acupuncture help the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder? Correctly placed needles help the body re-regulate itself from the effects of stress, PTSD, depression and anxiety. In turn, this allows the individual to focus on their activities and enable them to deal with daily events.

Source: Hollifield, M., Sinclair-Lian, N., Warner, T., and Hammerschlag, R. “Acupuncture for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial.” The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, June, 2007 V195(6):504-13.