Home / Acupuncture and PTSD

Acupuncture and PTSD – Acupuncture is well documented to be effective in treating pain conditions among others, but did you know that acupuncture treatment could significantly reduce the symptoms of PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? It can even work to prevent the symptoms of PTSD after a traumatic event, but before they manifest.

PTSD is a condition that has become very common in the American society in recent years. Statistics show that 70% of the adult population in the U.S has undergone a spell where they experienced some type of stress disorder in their lives. This equates to some 223.4 million people who have gone through one traumatic event or another, give or take. Of this number 20% go on and develop PTSD. A further 8% of Americans have the condition at any given time, and this is 24.4 million people who are coping with the condition.

Causes of PTSD

Traumatic events have lasting effects to the human psyche. People who have witnessed a shocking event, been through a life-threatening situation, or gone through the loss of a loved one are likely to develop the disorder. This is not to say that this is the only type of people affected by the condition; it can be triggered by any type of traumatic event.

These shocking events are stressful to person’s mind and may continue to affect them after the tragic occurence. This type of stress is what is known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Patients suffering from the condition often relive the stressful event through vivid flashbacks and nightmares.

Symptoms of PTSD

When a person has undergone such a scenario, the symptoms for PTSD usually start appearing right after the acts witnessed. In some cases, though, they may not show up until months or years later. The list of symptoms can be classified into four categories:

  1. Re-experiencing the traumatic event – Constant and intrusive recollections of the phenomena causing distress. Acting as if the event is happening all over again. Physiological reaction to cues is heightened. These symptoms can occur daily and be triggered by anything from sounds to images and situations. Such symptoms start from the individual’s feelings and thoughts and are heightened by external factors.

  2. Numbing and avoiding the traumatic event – Avoiding places, objects or events that remind one of the traumatic experience. Pushing away thoughts about the tragic event. These symptoms may be so severe that they cause the person to change their routine. For, instance someone who develops a hatred for flying because of a previous airplane accident.

  3. Reactivity and arousal symptoms – The person is easily startled. Feeling on edge and unable to stay calm. Having frequent outbursts of anger. Having difficulty sleeping. These are constant symptoms which function differently as actions that would need triggering. The symptoms can have the person feeling angry and stressed. They make it difficult to concentrate or sleep.

  4. Mood and cognition symptoms -. Negative thoughts about the world or self. Memory lapses when it comes to remembering key features of the event. Lack of interest in otherwise interesting things. Feelings of blame and guilt. These symptoms come after the occurrence and can alienate one from family and friends. All the symptoms mentioned above are natural for people who have experienced traumatic phenomena.

Western Treatments for PTSD

Trials for pharmacological interventions for the conditions have been on since the early 1980’s. According to research by Schelling et al. (2006), patients administered with hydrocortisone intravenously experienced a reduced level of PTSD and said treatment kept the patients stable even after 31 months of follow up.

Keane T et al. (1987), also found that eye motion desensitization and reprocessing as well as cognitive behavior therapy have notable effects in alleviating PTSD. There are many psychotherapeutic approaches that have been investigated for treatment of the condition but many do not have sufficient research to back them up.

The most well-known PTSD therapy that most people go for is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Other than using pharmacological drugs or therapy, patients can opt for alternative modes of treatment which are not often practiced in Western medicine.

Acupuncture and PTSD 

In one study, Yuan X et al. (2009), Zhang H et al. (2010) showed the variations between the procedure and CBT. The results of the study indicated that both had relatively the same effects on patients. As part of the experiment, a placebo was used to treat one of the 3 groups of subjects as the control.

Becker-Carus C et al. combined acupuncture with training that would encourage relaxation. The study, which was aimed at stopping the development of symptoms affecting an individual’s general mood, was carried out over a period of 4 weeks. Acupuncture sessions were administered in combination with stress relieving exercises.

For the second group, the stress releasing activities were administered in isolation. A third group was offered a placebo to observe changes for the two. Patients in the first group showed a lot of improvement, reporting ability to sleep and get quality relaxation. The second group, which used relaxing exercises, also experienced improvement even though at a slower pace. The research showed that acupuncture could be combined with other therapies to offer relief for patients dealing with PTSD.

Another study conducted by Zhang H et al. (2010) used electroacupuncture and combined it with auricular acupuncture as well as moxibustion. Electroacupuncture was used in isolation in one test and combined with the other alternatives in other groups. The results showed that electroacupuncture had a positive effect on the general wellbeing of subjects with reduced symptoms of reactivity and arousal. There wasn’t much of a change when combined with the other two practices even though a slight improvement was recorded.

Wang Y et al. (2009) also carried out tests to see whether acupuncture with manual stimulation and devoid of electrical stimulation would be effective in treating PTSD. The study ran for 8 weeks with 3 acupuncture sessions a week lasting 4 weeks, with 4 additional weeks of observation and follow up. The study demonstrated the ability of acupuncture in treating PTSD as patients recorded better sleep, a return to normal routine and an experience of calm.

Acupuncture has been proven over many years to be a viable alternative treatment for many conditions that plague the human body. Using it to cater for PTSD patients is another way to put the ancient Chinese practice into good medical use.

It will be worth mentioning that members or former members of the US military are particularly at risk of PTSD, this being because of regular deployment in combat areas where pain and death are common place. This group has therefore served as the perfect test sample for Acupuncture, and the results have been resounding.

Dr. Andrew Agoado of Boca Raton Acupuncture specializes in the treatment of PTSD and has treated US military and local police with tremendous success. Call him today to schedule a free consultation.



  1. Becker-Carus C, Heyden T, Kelle A. Effectiveness of acupuncture and attitude-relaxation training for treatment of primary sleep disorders. Zeitschrift fur Klinische Psychologie, Psychopathologie und Psychotherapie. 1985;33(2):161–172.
  2. Keane T, Wolf J, Taylor KL. Posttraumatic stress disorder: evidence for diagnostic validity and methods of psychological assessment. J Clin Psychol. 1987;43:32–43.
  3. Schelling G1, Roozendaal B, Krauseneck T, Schmoelz M, DE Quervain D, Briegel J. Efficacy of hydrocortisone in preventing posttraumatic stress disorder following critical illness and major surgery. 2006
  4. Wang Y, Hu Y. Acupuncture and moxibustion treatment for 69 cases of posttraumatic stress disorder caused by an earthquake. Henan Traditional Chinese Medicine . 2009;29, article 291
  5. Yuan X, Liu C, Lai R. Acupuncture treatment for 34 cases of posttraumatic stress disorder. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu .2009;29, article 234
  6. Zhang H, Yuan C, Ran L, et al. RCT research of different acupuncture therapies in treating Posttraumatic stress disorder after Wenchuan “5.12” earthquake. China Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy . 2010;25:1505–1510.
  7. Zhang H, Ran L, Yuan X, Wang K, Hu Z, Yang J. Clinical observation on acupuncture and moxibustion in treating post traumatic stress disorder after 5.12 earthquake. Journal of Chengdu University of TCM . 2010;33, article 4
  8. Zhang Y, Feng B, Xie JP, Xu FZ, Chen J. Clinical study on treatment of the earthquake-caused post-traumatic stress disorder by cognitive-behavior therapy and acupoint stimulation. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine . 2011;31(1):60–63.
  9. http://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2015/01/08/acupuncture-ptsd
  10. http://www.amcollege.edu/blog/acupuncture-and-ptsd