Addressing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with Chinese Medicine
by Rene Ng, DOM, AP, L.Ac.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, presents as one of the most serious and challenging disorders in the United States today. This is a type of anxiety disorder which develops after a person experiences a traumatic event, most often involving the threat of injury or death.
PTSD is widely seen in military veterans and soldiers returning from war. According to the PTSD Foundation of America, one in three returning troops are being diagnosed with serious PTSD symptoms. Out of these, less than 40% will seek help. In 2009, a record-breaking year for suicides in the services, 245 soldiers killed themselves. On average, five active-duty troops attempt suicide on a daily basis.
Marital strife is also apparent amongst troops suffering from combat trauma. Two out of three military marriages are failing. 200,000 military marriages have been broken, with more than 27,000 in 2009 alone. Veteran homelessness is also on the rise with one-third of our nations’ homeless population comprised of veterans.
Channel 6 News in Wichita Falls indicated that eight out of 100 men (8%) and twenty out of 100 women (20%) serving in the U.S. military have PTSD, so this disorder affects both genders across-the-board.
Feelings of anxiety, depression and other emotional disorders all factor in.
Why is PTSD such a challenge to treat? That is because PTSD is not just an illness isolated to one part of the body or organ. This disorder affects the entire body including the emotions. Aside from anxiety, typical emotional responses exhibited from PTSD sufferers include incident recall, avoidance, depression, anger and hopelessness.
With incident recall, the individual frequently relives the traumatic event, and that experience is often so real that it can severely disrupt normal activities. Flashback episodes tend to occur frequently too with recurrent distressing memories and repeated dreams of the events. Because of this, the person has never really “left” the event, but continually lives it throughout their everyday routines.
Therefore, the individual tends to suffer from chronic depression, and sometimes can exhibit signs of bipolar disorder. Depression can be an instigator and pathological factor in many chronic diseases, such as cancer and stroke, if not mitigated.
With avoidance, the individual suffering from PTSD develops emotional numbness, along with a lack of interest in normal activities. The person withdraws from social events, worsening the conditions of depression and anxiety. Often, frustration and anger escalate as well. Friends and families are mostly affected by this increased introversion and negative emotional state.
PTSD also presents with feelings of detachment and an inability to remember important clips of the trauma. Patients might display lack of hope for the future and will tend to avoid places, people or objects that can trigger memories of the event. They can present with an exaggerated stimuli response filled with hypervigilance, irritability and outbursts of anger. Sleep disorders and disruptive sleep patterns are also common amongst PTSD sufferers.
Chinese Medicine presents as an excellent natural alternative for PTSD disorders.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes Chinese Medicine as an effective form of traditional medicine. WHO defines traditional medicine as “the knowledge, skills and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures, used in the maintenance of health and in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness”.
Chinese Medicine is over 3,000 years old and utilizes a natural approach to maintain the human body in a healthy balance and maximize its potential to address various ailments and disorders.
From case studies compiled over thousands of years, a system of medical diagnoses and treatments was formed that looked at the body as a whole and tied all the different forms of disease to energetic disruptions, emotional disorders, human actions and daily habits.
Signs and symptoms were used as diagnostic tools to determine the cause of these issues, so both the causative factors and symptoms were simultaneously addressed. The following illustrates how an imbalance in one of the major organ systems affects other areas of the body too.
Acupuncture and other branches of Chinese Medicine play a role in treatment.
Chinese Medicine treatments involve any combination of Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Chinese manual therapy, moxibustion, nutritional consultation, Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Acupuncture is primarily used to promote the free flowing of energy and blood in the body and to guide this flow in the proper direction.
For example, nausea is the cause of the energy flowing in the wrong direction (up versus down) in the chest, so Acupuncture can be used to stem the nausea by correctly adjusting the direction to flow downwards. Acupuncture can also be used to address where energy is stuck (called Qi Stagnation), frequently resulting in local inflammation and pain. The Acupuncture needles, when inserted at targeted trigger points, can help to disperse the stagnation, alleviating the pain and inflammation.
Acupuncture can also be used to “jump-start” organ systems that are underperforming or deficient to address the symptoms associated with that organ system. For example, lower back pain can be addressed by using Acupuncture needles to stimulate the kidneys.
Chinese herbal medicine focuses on the source of the problems to address dysfunctions of the various organ systems in addition to the associated symptoms. The other modalities (such as moxibustion) assist the herbal medicine and Acupuncture in achieving and keeping total body health maintenance.
A board-certified and licensed Acupuncturist can help the patient suffering from PTSD. Armed with a comprehensive education in Chinese Medicine (not just Acupuncture), pathology, anatomy and total wellness, the Acupuncturist can help to diagnose the primary areas of disharmony the PTSD patient is suffering from which has likely been causing the reported issues.
Based on this, the correct blend of Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and other approaches is prescribed to address, not only emotional distress reported by the patient, but also the ailments and other associated health issues that could be directly related to the PTSD symptoms.
Furthermore, the patient will be advised on lifestyle, exercise and nutrition habits in order to bring harmony and health back into the equation. Adequate sleep and peace of mind are among the first signs of relief experienced by a PTSD patient being treated with Chinese Medicine.
Rene Ng, AP, L.Ac., is a board-certified, licensed Acupuncture Physician and Chinese Herbalist in Sarasota. He is a four-time winner of Sarasota’s “Favorite Acupuncture Physician” and “Favorite Anti-Aging Practitioner” awards. Cancer care, MS, addictions, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, weight management, asthma, injuries and pain management are among his specialties. He helps many patients suffering from these and other health issues with Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs, Cupping, Gua Sha and Moxibustion. For more information, call 941-773-5156, email RNG@ChineseMedicalSolutions.com or visit ChineseMedicalSolutions.com.