How Acupuncture Can Be Used to Treat and Manage Symptoms of PTSD
By Dr. Cheryl Yelverton – Licensed Acupuncturist – Plantation, Florida – For centuries, acupuncture has been used to treat all types of chronic and acute pain. As a matter of fact we have effectively treated many patients from the VA with long time, stubborn chronic pains, much to their delight. However, its effectiveness in managing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder hasn’t been publicized as much. That’s unfortunate, because it works extremely well and is a viable treatment option for many.
The statistics about the number of people suffering from PTSD in the US makes for grim reading. For starters, up to 70% of the adult population in the USA will have had to contend with a stress disorder at one point in their lives. 20% of these cases eventually evolve to full PTSD. Data also shows that at any single time, 8% of Americans have some form of PTSD.
Causes of PTSD
Highly traumatic events usually cause the human psyche to suffer lasting damage. PTSD is therefore likely to affect people who have been in life-threatening situations, witnessed a shocking happening or lost a loved one. These are not the only categories of people likely to develop PTSD as there are many other kinds of trauma inducing events.
The effect traumatic events have on the human mind can be so vivid that it continues to affect them long after the event has happened. This is why the condition is known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders as it manifests after a period of time has passed from the traumatic happenings. Those suffering from PTSD usually relive the trauma in the form of nightmares or vivid recollections.
Symptoms of PTSD
After someone has been through a tragic happening, the symptoms of PTSD can become apparent right after the event. However, sometimes it takes longer periods of time for the symptoms to appear: months of even years.
PTSD symptoms can be classified into 4 categories:
- Reliving the tragic event – Persistent and disruptive recollection of what happened during the stressful event. The victim acts and feels like they are caught up in the moments that caused the trauma. While these symptoms are often triggered by the persons own feelings and mind, they can be exacerbated by external stimuli.
- Numbness and Avoiding Experiences: The victim of PTSD will choose to avoid certain experiences or places associated with the trauma even when they are harmless. At the most extreme the PTSD sufferer can change their routine entirely for the sake of avoiding the stress.
- Arousal and Reactivation – Victims of PTSD with this category of symptoms are easily startled. They can easily resort to anger and succumb to stress, and even experience bouts of sleeplessness.
- Cognition and Mood – PTSD victims often have negative thoughts and feelings. They also suffer memory lapses and loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed. These symptoms can be alienating and disorienting.
PTSD Treatment in the West
Since the early 80’s western medical practitioners have been looking to standardize treatment and management of PTSD. Hydrocortisone, administered intravenously has been the major drug of choice. It has mainly proven effective in keeping patients on an even keel.
There are also some dependable research which has shown that psychotherapeutic interventions have produced some workable solutions in treating PTSD. These include memory reprocessing and eye desensitization. However, these approaches are limited in effectiveness.
Acupuncture and PTSD Research
When acupuncture is used along with psychotherapeutic interventions such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), some PTSD patients have shown promising accelerated recovery. This has been replicated in other studies across the world and progress is seen in the development of a series of new techniques in the treatment of PTSD.
There has been extensive research aimed at establishing if acupuncture has greater effect in treating PTSD when it is combined with a number of more well-established methods. The most well publicized of those research studies was conducted with a set of groups of PTSD patients. The first group was given acupuncture in combination with relaxation exercises. The other group only had the stress relief exercises but no acupuncture. In yet another group, intended to act as control, the exercises used for stress relief were placebo ones. When the patients were evaluated for progress in dealing with PTSD, those in the main group (patients subjected to acupuncture and stress relaxation training) showed clear progress and much more significant improvement than those in the other two groups
Some studies have been carried out to establish if changing the methodology of applying acupuncture has any change in the response shown by patients undergoing therapy for PTSD. The most notable of these studies tried to establish if electroacupuncture ( a gentle micro current applied to the acupuncture needles) worked better when used in isolation or as a combination with other physiotherapeutic methods.
A group of PTSD patients were first treated by undergoing regular electroacupuncture sessions. The researchers noticed that it indeed did help with the management and treatment of the condition. Other groups were treated using electroacupuncture complemented by either auricular (ear) acupuncture or moxibustion. The research analysis showed that the use of combination of the methods led to significant improvement in terms of both response and recovery.
There are many other studies showing the effectiveness of acupuncture for PTSD as well as other psychological conditions. If you’re suffering with PTSD, give us a call at our Plantation, Florida location and schedule a free consultation today. Most insurance accepted.