Acupuncture and PTSD

PTSD trauma help

PTSD: if you’re not suffering from it, chances are you know of someone who has

Whether it is veterans returning from war, the aftermath of a car accident or an abusive relationship—PTSD is more common in today’s society than we might think. However, the typical treatment protocol for PTSD (drugs, drugs, and more drugs) is rarely helpful. Many patients become hooked on their prescription painkillers, or turn to overconsumption of alcohol as a means of coping—which we all know only makes a bad situation worse over time.

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine provide another way

An increasing number of studies have reported the benefits of acupuncture as viable treatment for PTSD.

  • As the medical director of the Program for Traumatic Stress at the VA hospital in Long Beach, California, Dr. Michael Hollifield has extensive experience with patients suffering with PTSD and in 2011 he identified “conceptual, clinical, and biological data” in support of the acupuncture’s efficacy for the treatment of PTSD. (1)
  • Further research has concluded not only that acupuncture improved symptoms of PTSD but also that patients continued to experience relief three months after their last treatment.(2)
  • Dr. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, Chief Clinical Officer, Department of Mental Health, for the District of Columbia and Professor of Psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, speaks to the effectiveness of acupuncture, specifically for veterans, in her article, Acupuncture for the Treatment of PTSD:

One veteran says, “I had not been able to sleep more than 2 hours a night since I returned. After one session with the needles, I had the best sleep I had had in a year.”

Dr. Ritchie backs up these veteran testimonials with support from the health care providers themselves “[regarding veterans] When they first come to me, those guys who have been deployed three, four, five times, they can’t sit still for CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy). We get them a few sessions of acupuncture or yoga, and they can settle down enough to do the trauma work.”

“I had not been able to sleep more than 2 hours a night since I returned. After one session with the needles, I had the best sleep I had had in a year.”

Acupuncture addresses illness at its root

As holistic medicine, acupuncture works on the mind, body, and spirit as a unit making it ideal for people dealing with the complex symptoms of PTSD. Instead of putting a Band-Aid over the symptoms with drugs, acupuncture addresses illness at its root — and then the symptoms just go away.

The take away message: If you’re struggling with PTSD, regardless of the reason, acupuncture can offer relief (more on acupuncture and anxiety here).

Works Cited

  1. Hollifield, M. (2011), Acupuncture for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Conceptual, Clinical, and Biological Data Support Further Research. CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, 17: 769–779.
  2. Hollifield M, Sinclair-lian N, Warner TD, Hammerschlag R. Acupuncture for posttraumatic stress disorder: a randomized controlled pilot trial. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2007;195(6):504-13.
  3. Ritchie, Elspeth C. Acupuncture for the Treatment of PTSD. Psychiatric Annals. 2013; 43(5): 235.

Guest authors’ work is reviewed and edited by Ben Townsend.