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Can acupuncture make PTSD worse?

Can acupuncture make PTSD symptoms worse? I had acupuncture done on my ears and I had my first PTSD episode in 3 months.

A: The short answer would be 'probably not' unless there was something about the treatment itself which re-awakened some of the trauma which initiated the problem. We have encountered this on a couple of occasions with patients who have been stabbed, but it is rare.

What is more likely is that the treatment has released something which the body has held on to. We often find that shock and stress can be held almost like memories in the system, and from our perspective as Chinese medicine practitioners this them interferes with the normal flow of energy, and can manifest in the sorts of symptoms which are classified as PTSD and to which the system ultimately adjusts to get on with life. Once a practitioner starts to balance things up again these patterns can often be released, and this can sometimes result in a resurgence of the original problems and even the initial shock.

The homoeopaths actually acknowledge this formally within their systems as the 'law of cure' where symptoms can re-appear in the reverse chronological order, and although we would not go this far we are aware that when we treat people with a history of migraine or other problems from the past which it is assumed they have 'grown out of' there is a strong chance that they might have another bout.

One small concern is that you talk about using ear acupuncture. We think this can be a valuable modality for addressing many issues, and there are indeed practitioners in the UK who train exclusively in this based on the work of people like Nogier, a French man who really developed this as a working method in the 1950s and 1960s. We would hope that the person who is offering the treatment is doing so within a framework which provides proper support to you as a patient. If you have had the treatment for one problem and it brings back another one we would expect that there is some safety net in place which means that you haven't had this very unpleasant problem dropped back on you without some chance to address it.

We suspect that it will be a one-off episode, but even so we know just how difficult it can be and how frightened that people can become that it returns for a longer time. If this episode continues we would probably advise you not to continue having ear acupuncture unless it is within a setting which affords you proper and appropriate support.

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