Alongside prescribed medicine and treatments, there are also a lot of natural methods available for relieving PTSD symptoms. One of these is acupuncture, which various research studies have shown to be effective for treating post-traumatic stress disorder.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a type of complementary medicine in which fine needles are inserted into the skin along what are thought to be lines of energy. The treatment is derived from ancient Chinese practice and is still widely used today, including within many NHS general practices and the majority of pain clinics and hospices throughout the UK.
It is thought that acupuncture helps to stimulate sensory nerves under the skin and within muscles, which then causes the body to produce natural substances, including pain-relieving endorphins. This is what is thought to be responsible for the beneficial results of acupuncture. When used as a course of treatment, it has better results than a single one-off treatment.
Along with helping to relieve PTSD symptoms, acupuncture is also often used as a treatment for those suffering from migraines and chronic tension-type headaches, anxiety, joint pain, dental pain, chronic pain, infertility and post-operative pain.
Using Acupuncture to Treat PTSD
Although PTSD can affect everyone, not just those in the military, a randomised controlled study of active duty US military service personnel in 2014 found that acupuncture could help to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and pain, improve mental and physical health functioning, and also significantly benefit their overall outcome too.
As the researchers found, acupuncture is a safe, non-stigmatising and therapeutic treatment that proved to be effective in reducing PTSD symptoms. They also discovered that those who combined acupuncture with other kinds of treatments had a significantly better outcome than those who only received the usual care.
The patients were treated with the acupuncture needles for between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on their prescription, for a course of 8 treatments over 4 weeks. The follow-up appointment to check their progress then took place 12 weeks later.
Researchers from the Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Chengdu Military General Hospital conducted a similar study with those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder due to earthquakes. Examining 138 patients, they found that acupuncture was more effective than Paroxetine for its relief of PTSD symptoms, and it also helped reduce anxiety and depression in sufferers too.
In 2010, researchers learnt that acupuncture acted on parts of the brain that were known for reducing sensitivity to pain and stress and identified the ways in which it was helping to promote relaxation in patients. They also discovered that acupuncture deactivated the ‘analytical’ brain, which is considered responsible for anxiety and worry.
Not everyone will always see the benefit of all therapies, and treatment options vary for each PTSD sufferer; as such, they are best discussed on a one-to-one basis with a doctor. However, novel options such as acupuncture provide a drug-free, therapeutic option to explore with huge potential for positive results. It is a great option to utilise while waiting for treatment, and also as an ongoing method of keeping symptoms at bay.
It’s also important to note, that while choosing your PTSD recovery path you need to address both the symptoms and the underlying condition. NICE guidance from 2005 and 2011 recommends the use of trauma focused psychological treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in adults, specifically the use of Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) and trauma focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Please remember, these aren’t meant to be medical recommendations, but they’re tactics that have worked for others and might work for you, too. Be sure to work with a professional to find the best methods for you.
REFERENCES: HealthCMI, NHS, Acupuncture.com, HealthCMI, NCBI, andEngel, Charles C., Elizabeth H. Cordova, David M. Benedek, Xian Liu, Kristie L. Gore, Christine Goertz, Michael C. Freed, Cindy Crawford, Wayne B. Jonas, and Robert J. Ursano. “Randomized Effectiveness Trial of a Brief Course of Acupuncture for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.” Medical care 52 (2014): S57-S64.
IMAGE: ‘Needles’ by A Silly Person