Using Acupuncture to Treat PTSD
When you hear the term PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), the image that comes to mind is a combat veteran from the military. While many of our troops coming home from foreign wars and conflicts show signs of PTSD, it’s more widespread than that and can effect people from every walk of life. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can come from any situation involving violence, aggression or disaster. Any incident involving physical, mental or emotional trauma may cause an individual to develop PTSD. Using acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help individuals affected with PTSD to lower anxiety levels and cope with their daily lives better.
The National Institute of Mental Health says that “PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened.” They go on to say “traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.” People who have been victimized may continually re-experience the traumatic event in the form of nightmares or flashbacks. They may become angrier than they previously were and remain in a state of hyper-vigilance. Usually they have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, which can lead to paranoia and depression. Patients can only be diagnosed with PTSD if they’ve been experiencing these symptoms for over a month and it must negatively effect their work and social life or radically alter their ability to function normally.
As previously mentioned, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can arise from many different situations. The one constant is that the person believes their life was put in grave danger and their mind is constantly reliving it making it impossible for them to move forward with their life. Examples of these situations might be physical assault, sexual assault, acts of terrorism, natural disaster or mental/emotional trauma. Although most people will experience some kind of trauma over their lifetime, only a small percentage of people will actually develop PTSD. There is evidence to support some genetic predisposition, but early childhood traumas and the severity of the trauma plays a crucial role.
Typically, patients with PSTD are on adrenal overdrive. In Chinese medicine the adrenal glands are correlated to the function of the kidneys, which can be negatively be impacted by fear. The most common Chinese medical diagnosis for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is often a Kidney deficiency, Heart or Spleen deficiency and Shen disturbance (The names of the organs are capitalized, as they are in Chinese medicine, to signify the organ meridian and not to imply there is a physical dysfunction with the organ). Acupuncture and herbal formulas can play an important part in relieving symptoms of PTSD. Auricular points are great to help control areas of the brain regulating stress and nervous function. Using an auricular treatment along with a whole body approach is more applicable to patients with this condition. Also, relaxation techniques and counseling should be employed to complete the healing process.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine has been treating patients suffering from stress and anxiety for a long time. It’s good to see our government and the military taking an active interest in acupuncture to help our troops, who have given so much for our country. More studies are being done and hopefully acupuncture will become an integral part of healing for our troops in all the VA hospitals throughout the nation. For all they’ve done, they certainly deserve it. Semper Fi.