Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a serious health condition that many people don't know very much about, despite the fact that it is quite prevalent in our society. For a long time, PTSD got very little attention from the health community or main stream media. All of this has changed in the last five years as soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan have begun reporting mild to severe cases of PTSD. Latest statistics reveal that as many as 31% of all returning soldiers have some form of PTSD.
Treating Post Traumatic Stress with Acupuncture
But PTSD is not only a combat-related condition. The National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder estimates that at some point in their lives, one in every 13 Americans will experience some degree of PTSD; roughly 30 percent of these people will go on to develop a chronic form of the condition. A lesser-known form of PTSD is called Complex PTSD, which is not a mental disease but a psychic injury resulting from a complex spectrum of traumatic events that occur throughout childhood.
There are many events that can lead to PTSD, such as a car accident, sudden loss of a loved one, sudden debilitating illness, living through a natural disaster, sexual or physical abuse, medical procedures, a sudden or severe financial loss, or witnessing a violent event. Children are especially vulnerable to PTSD, and many adults, whether they know it or not, experienced PTSD as children, sometimes repeatedly. Some PTSD experts believe we are a world of “walking wounded”, with a surprising majority of people living with undiagnosed PTSD and the symptoms associated with it.
Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD is defined as a response by normal people to an abnormal situation. The traumatic event(s) that lead to PTSD are usually so frightening and overwhelming that one’s sense of safety and trust are shattered and typical coping mechanisms are inadequate to handle the situation. PTSD is an illness of insufficient coping abilities in the face of a traumatic event.
When experiencing a traumatic event, the mind and the body are in shock. This is a normal and even healthy response. Typically, as one gains understanding and support for what happened and processes their emotions, the shock abates. PTSD develops when the shock does not go away. The residual shock may be strong or mild; regardless, there is a persistent, continual state of overwhelm, heightened sense of vulnerability and fearfulness – even in situations that pose absolutely no threat at all.
PTSD can affect virtually every system in the human mind and body. Symptoms of PTSD range from psychological, physiological, mental and emotional. Here is a brief list of the more common PTSD symptoms:
- Physical pain of unknown origin
- Headaches, migraines, chronic muscle tension
- Stomach pain, nausea, indigestion, irritable bowel disease, constipation, diarrhea
- Chest pain, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
- Inability to concentrate or remain interested in what one is doing
- Feelings of panic, anxiety, anger, irritability, depression, hopelessness, mistrust, or fear
- Insomnia: difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Substance abuse
- Loss of interest in activities and life in general
- Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
How is PTSD Treated?
No definitive cure for PTSD has been found, so treatment has focused on ameliorating the symptoms themselves, typically with a combination of psychological and pharmacological therapies. While some of these therapies appear promising, acupuncture has recently emerged as an effective, natural and non-invasive treatment approach. Dozens of research studies into the effective treatment of PTSD with acupuncture are taking place right now and acupuncture centers around the country are offering their services to sufferers of PTSD. The results have surpassed all expectations.
Researchers at the University of New Mexico began a two-year study in May 2010 of the effects of acupuncture in treating PTSD. To date, 17 patients have completed the program, with at least 29 more subjects enrolled at various stages. Based on preliminary, subjective results, the doctors involved are very pleased with the results.
"My sense is it's going well," says Dr. Nityamo Sinclair-Lian, DOM. "People are expressing satisfaction with the treatments, and some are amazed at how well they are feeling after suffering for years with debilitating symptoms.”
One patient reported: “I feel like I have my life back. I’m sleeping better, I’m not as tired as I was. I feel more relaxed, less anxious. A lot less anxious. It seems like a miracle.”
How Can Acupuncture Help PTSD?
Acupuncture has long been used to treat pain, insomnia, headaches, digestive problems, bowel irregularities and fatigue – not only the symptoms but their underlying issues as well. Acupuncture also helps with the regulation of brain chemistry regulation, the parasympathetic nervous system and neurotransmitter activity, all of which are related to our emotional and psychological well-being.
Acupuncture treatment for PTSD can be tailored to each individual’s symptomatic needs. The approach can be broad, ranging from the comprehensive treatment of pain, insomnia, digestive disorders, depression and anxiety. Or, the approach can pinpoint a particular issue, such as chronic headaches.
If you or someone you know suffers from symptoms outlined above, PTSD may be a factor. To learn more about how acupuncture can help alleviate these symptoms, please contact Bobbie for more information.
Bobbie Rene Parke, M.Ac.O.M., L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.