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Would acupuncture help anxiety and sleep problems caused by PTSD?

Q: I have PTSD. I know acupuncture would not treat this, but could it help with the anxiety and sleep problems I have?

A: Strangely enough there is a small but growing amount of evidence that acupuncture treatment can be effective for PTSD. We found this 2013 systematic review

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3580897/

which looks at all the evidence from all the existing studies, and makes some encouraging noises. The conclusions to nearly all reviews of this kind are that larger and better designed studies are needed, but what evidence there is is quite positive.

There is no doubt that acupuncture treatment has been used for some of the component parts of PTSD, notably stress and anxiety, as well as with sleep problems. We have a number of factsheets on our website

http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/anxiety.html

http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/stress.html

http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/1283-insomnia.html

which gather the evidence together, and we have answered a great many questions on all three which you can find rather easily through typing any into the 'site search' option on our home page.

What we invariably say in nearly every case, though, is that it is important to visit a local BAcC member for an informal chat to get a view about whether treatment can help your specific problems. PTSD can manifest for all sorts of reasons, and all of us will have treated patients over the years who have been badly affected by accidents, injuries and family traumas. There are ways of interpreting some of these through the diagnostic categories of Chinese medicine which can offer direct treatment options of specific energetic changes, not just an easing of symptoms over time. Each case is unique, though, and needs to be addressed as such.

Talking to a local BAcC member (and most of us don't charge for a short chat with a prospective patient) can often give the practitioner a better idea than we can offer here of whether treatment may work, and has the added advantage that you can meet them and see where they work before committing to treatment. The nature of PTSD is that when someone tries to address the issues involved, as invariably happens during the course of treatment, the patient needs to be able to trust the practitioner as someone they can do business with. If that rapport exists it can really help things along, as much as the converse is true. It is probably better to chat to two or three people to see where the best 'fit' is than to just go to the first or nearest. We are not counsellors, but we do listen intently, and for someone to feel that they can talk openly about their problems their often needs to be a good level of basic rapport.


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