Acupuncture study sees 'remarkable' success rate in veterans with PTSD

Naji Malak, founder of the Stand Easy charity

Naji Malak, founder of the Stand Easy charity

Veterans suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience 'significant clinical improvement' in their symptoms after just six sessions of acupuncture, a new study has shown.

The study, funded by the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) and conducted by Healthwatch Norfolk, involved 26 veterans, who received free treatment from the charity Stand Easy, between July 2017 and January 2018.

Data were collected through three self-report questionnaires – the primary outcome measure was PTSD symptoms, as measured through the PTSD checklist Civilian Version (PLC-C). The secondary outcome measure was symptoms of depression and anxiety, measured through the the 12-item General Health Questionnaires (GHQ-12).

Of the 26 participants, 21 (80.8%) completed post-treatment outcomes. Five (19.2%) dropped out before finishing the six sessions.

"Positive results"

Ed Fraser, who led the project for HealthWatch Norfolk, said: "The positive results that we observed were highly unusual and extremely impressive when compared to other studies.  That is a remarkable outcome, which we were not expecting to see.

"Whilst we acknowledge that our evaluation had a number of limitations, we believe that our results provide good evidence for the short-term effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment for PTSD, which justifies further research in this area."

Using intention to treat analysis the researchers observed significant improvements in PTSD scores (PCL-C: -29, 95% CI: [-21.5 to -36.5]) and anxiety and depression scores (GHQ-12 -6.7, 95% CI: [-4.7 to -8.7]). The effect size (Cohen’s d) for the PCL-C was huge at 2.7 (SD 10.8, 95% CI: [2.0, 3.4]).

 The effect size for the GHQ-12 was very large at 1.8 (SD 3.8, 95% CI: [1.2, 2.3]). 100% of completers experienced reliable and clinically significant improvement in PTSD symptoms (change in PCL-C >10).

 At pre-treatment, 90.5% of completers met case criteria for PTSD (PCL-C >50) and no completers met case criteria at post-treatment. 92.3% of all participants met case criteria at pre-treatment compared to 19.2% at post-treatment.

Naji Malak, a fellow of the British Acupuncture Council, and founder of the Stand Easy charity, which offers swift and effective relief from PTSD and associated symptoms to all veterans, said: "Having worked with civilians and military personnel for more than 35 years, I firmly believe in acupuncture as an effective treatment for PTSD and the quick change it can bring out in people can be remarkable." Malak set up the charity in 2015 after watching a Panorama documentary 'Broken in Battle' which highlighted the dire and frustrating situation many of those seeking assistance for PTSD face. Originally from Lebanon, Malak spent many years perfecting his 'non-talking' acupuncture technique treating military personnel and prisoners of war in the Middle East.

He added: "People need energy to engage in talking therapies. Almost every veteran with PTSD has underlying energy which is completely flat, so many of them find it difficult to communicate verbally. If a veteran chooses to talk, then we talk, but it's not necessary. When you put the acupuncture needles in they work together to lift the heavy trauma out. It literally gets lifted out."

Malak said he has treated more than 110 veterans over the past 12 months and "almost every one of them is better."

Veterans from around the UK are now travelling to his Norfolk-based clinic for treatment. he added.

Case studies:

  1. Stefan Coombes – suffered PTSD after being shot at and blown up in Afghanistan. He took overdose on Remembrance Day in 2013 when it all became too much. His symptoms included anger and severe anxiety. Medication and other forms of therapy did not work. He says acupuncutre has helped with his anger and his family has noticed how much calmer and happier he is.

StefanCoombes

  1. Darren Edwards – was in the military for over 24 years and served in Afghanistan, northern Ireland and both Gulf Wars. PTSD led him to drink up to seven bottles of wine a night, he was prone to violence, and tried to take his own life after suffering symptoms for many years. He did not expect the treatment to have such a dramatic effect. He says he felt amazing afterwards and that "within 10 minutes of having the first needle he had calmed down from a 'sweating, nervous wreck'." "I am mind-blown about how quickly it worked," he says. He believes he is now "a completely different person", he is no longer drinking and can get on with life. "I have never felt so elated in my life. I am back to smiling and enjoying life," he concludes.

DarrenEdwards

  1. Dan – was medically discharged because of his symptoms. He has a son and another child on the way and was desperate to get help for his PTSD, which was getting worse. His symptoms affected his sleeping, and he experienced hallucinations. He would lash out and throw things about in his sleep. He liked the acupuncture treatment because there was 'no messing around, no waiting list, no talking - just straight into treatment." He says: "I felt an improvement after the first session, my sleep improved. After the second week my anxiety was better and after the third week it was even better. It's improved my life massively."
dan

Notes to Editor:

  • For further information, case studies or interviews please contact: Katie Osborne at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 07990 922615
  • The full Stand Easy study can be found here: https://www.healthwatchnorfolk.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Healthwatch-Norfolk-evaluation-of-Stand-Easy-June-2018-full-report.pdf
  • A film of the three veterans featured in this press release can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=44&v=zTB5spKcCRU

About the BAcC:

The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) has a membership of nearly 3,000 professionally qualified acupuncturists. It is the UK's largest professional body for the practice of acupuncture. BAcC members practise a traditional, holistic style of acupuncture diagnosis and treatment based on a system developed and refined over 2,000 years. To achieve BAcC membership, practitioners must first undertake extensive training in traditional acupuncture (minimum three years full-time or part-time equivalent), which includes physiology, anatomy and other biomedical sciences appropriate to the practice of acupuncture.

Traditional acupuncture:

Traditional acupuncture as practised by members of the BAcC is based on Chinese medicine principles that have been developed, researched and refined for over 2,500 years. Traditional acupuncture is holistic, not focused on isolated symptoms. It regards pain and illness, whether physical or mental, to be a sign the whole body is out of balance. Western or medical acupuncture is a more recent development practised predominantly by doctors and physiotherapists, who use acupuncture techniques within their existing scope of practice on the basis of a western medical diagnosis

Why use a BAcC practitioner?

It is very important to check your acupuncturist is safe and competent. Acupuncture in the UK is not currently regulated by government, although this is expected to change in the near future.

All members of the BAcC can offer the following assurances:

  • BSc or BA degree level training or its equivalent in traditional acupuncture, Chinese medicine and western biomedical sciences including anatomy, physiology and pathology (3,600 hours of study)
  • Compliance with current UK health and safety legislation
  • Full medical malpractice and public/products liability insurance cover
  • Expert practice skills maintained by following a mandatory individual programme of continuing professional development (CPD)
  • Regular updates from the BAcC regarding practitioners’ professional obligations to the public
  • Compliance with BAcC Code of Safe Practice and Code of Professional Conduct
  • Patient access to BAcC complaints and disciplinary procedures
  • English language skills at least equivalent to those required of doctors and nurses working in the UK
  • Acupuncturists registered with the BAcC carry the letters MBAcC after their name.

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