By Jim Stegenga, L.Ac.
Serving Olympia, Lacey, and Tumwater, and the South Puget Sound
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a commonly misunderstood condition that currently affects around 5 million Americans. Acupuncture, along with a variety of natural treatment approaches, can often offer profound benefit to people diagnosed with PTSD or share a similar constellation of symptoms.
Acupuncture can treat PTSD by harmonizing the underlying energetic imbalances that cause the condition. In acupuncture theory, PTSD is treated as a state of shock that must be cleared out of one’s nervous system and body. Shock can linger long after the triggering event occurred, often for many years. There are a number of acupuncture treatment strategies that effectively take someone out of a state of shock. This is accomplished by clearing the underlying energetic imbalance that is causing the shock to persist. Another important factor is to stabilize the pulse, as almost all patients in shock exhibit unstable pulses that show continuous deviation in rate, rhythm, intensity, or amplitude.
Acupuncture works by regulating the flow of Qi or life force in the body. In the case of PTSD, there is often what is called a Qi wild condition, in which one’s life force/vital energy have become chaotic, disturbed, or grossly inconsistent. Acupuncture is a powerful way to settle such energetic disturbances and return the body and mind to a state of balance and peace.
Chinese herbs can also offer a deep level of support in treating PTSD. The herbal formulas yunnan paiyao and sheng mai san are a first line of defense in clearing shock and trauma, as the are primarily indicated to stabilize the pulse. These formulas are typically taken for one month, at which time noticeable changes are often detected in pattern of the PTSD. After this initial course of treatment, there are a variety of other herbal formulas that can be chosen from depending on the patient’s unique needs. Listed here are a few examples:
- Calm Spirit by Health Concerns: Used for anxiety, stress, irritability, emotional fluctuations, and worry
- Peaceful Spirit by Golden Flower: Same indications as Calm Spirit
- Bupleurum and Dragon Bone: Helps with chronic anger issues, nervous tension, addictions, and bipolar tendencies
- Tian Wan Bu xin Dan: Useful for restless sleep, irritability, sadness, excessive stress
Along with Chinese herbs, it is also important to implement the following nutritional strategies:
- Eliminate caffeine, refined sugar, and alcohol
- Eat plenty of organic fruits and vegetables every day
- Drink 8 glasses water daily
- Supplement with phosphatidyl serine, B complex, fish and flax oil
Many of my patients who have had PTSD have also benefited from a technique called EFT, which stands for Emotional Freedom Techniques. This is considered an emotional form of acupuncture that involves tapping on specific acupuncture points while specific phrases are repeated. This is a powerful technique to recondition the nervous system and reroute the neural patterning that perpetuates trauma. It is simple to learn and easy to implement into one’s life. Many people find that this simple technique offers much more immediate benefit than medications or therapy. I am certified by the originator of EFT, Gary Craig.
Meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, and a variety of deep breathing exercises can also be extremely helpful, especially if they are practiced on a daily basis.
PTSD can be a debilitating and difficult condition to treat. This is why I recommend a combination of therapies. Acupuncture, herbs, EFT, meditation, and nutrition offer a tremendous collection of resources that can substantially reduce or eliminate many of the symptoms of PTSD.
Treatment for most patients is once a week for 4-6 visits, at which time we will assess for progress. Many patients find it helpful to commit to more long-term care for this condition.
Call Jim at 360.943.0306 to set up your first appointment today!