military and ptsd

Acupuncture Among New Alternative Therapies Being Used

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat. U.S. service men and women are experiencing PTSD at unprecedented levels. A study in the June 2010 Archives of General Psychiatry estimated that as much as 17% of U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD, which can cause symptoms such as depression, anger, persistent frightening thoughts and memories, sleep problems and a feeling of numbness or detachment.

To fight PTSD, the U.S. Department of Defense is employing new counseling programs and is exploring innovative and alternative treatments, including acupuncture. In 2007, a program began at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, that is believed to be the first comprehensive effort of its kind in the military combining alternative therapies and traditional treatments for soldiers with PTSD. Today, there are more than 15 programs up-and-running across all branches of the military for soldiers with PTSD. Early results from these programs have been extremely positive and build upon recent research that shows the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating PTSD.

In fact, a study was published in June 2007 in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease that showed that acupuncture “provided large treatment effects for PTSD” similar to those seen after counseling and therapy. The study also showed that acupuncture was able not only to reduce PTSD symptoms, but to keep reducing those symptoms even three months after treatment ended.

This effectiveness is most likely due to the fact that Oriental Medicine and acupuncture aim to heal the whole person rather than individual symptoms. Specifically, acupuncture is calming to the nervous system, which can be so shaken and traumatized by the events causing PTSD. By focusing on soothing and settling the nervous system with acupuncture and Chinese herbs, Oriental Medicine may become a more often used treatment for soldiers and civilians suffering from PTSD.