How Acupuncture Can Help Veterans with PTSD

Veteran PTSD and AcupunctureWith the war in the Middle East fresh in our minds and Veterans Day now approaching, we are reminded that after selflessly serving their country many American military personnel are left suffering from the effects of stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Often expensive and difficult to treat, stress and stress-related conditions lend themselves to treatment with cost-effective, non-invasive modalities such as Chinese medicine and acupuncture.

In support of Veteran’s Day, clinical interns at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine will be offering ear acupuncture treatments for stress reduction to the public at it’s donation-based clinic in Potrero Hill. The ear clinic operates Mondays and Tuesdays from 1:30 – 4:15 pm, and Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 am to 11:45 am. The Ear Clinic is located at 555 De Haro Street in San Francisco. No appointments are necessary, and no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Veterans and active members of the military are at particularly high risk for stress-induced health problems such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and substance abuse. According to a 2006 report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, one out of every three US soldiers who returns from active duty in Iraq needs mental health treatment.

The number of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans seeking treatment for PTSD from the Department of Veterans Affairs jumped by nearly 20,000 — almost 70 percent — in the 12 months ending June 30, 2007, according to the Army Times. More than 100,000 veterans — about one out of seven of those who have served and left active duty — have sought help for mental illness since late 2001, the start of the war in Afghanistan. Almost half of those cases were for PTSD.

These numbers do not include thousands of personnel treated at storefront Vet Centers across the country, active-duty personnel diagnosed with PTSD, or former service members who have not sought treatment from the VA for their mental problems. The nearly 50,000 VA-documented PTSD cases far exceeds the official Pentagon tally for all wounded from those conflicts, which stands at 30,000.

According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), as much as 80 percent of disease is stress-related, and 60 to 90 percent of visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related problems. Stress is a physical and psychological response that causes the body to generate distress signals such as increased blood pressure and cortisol levels and lowered immune system function. If left unchecked, symptoms often worsen to become depression, fatigue, tension headaches, stomachaches, hypertension, migraines, ulcers, heart attacks, or colitis. Eventually, stress can lead to even more serious health problems, such as cancer, diabetes or thyroid dysfunction. Perhaps the most debilitating result of stress is its ability to severely impact personal relationships and everyday responsibilities such as maintaining a job and caring for one’s family.

Acupuncture and PTSD

Studies show that Chinese medicine, which includes acupuncture, herbs, massage, Tai Chi and Qi Gong, can significantly help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. The Chinese medical view of stress is that excessive emotional stimulation or suppression sets up an imbalance of the basic life force energy, or “Qi”, thereby injuring the body and producing disease.

Chinese medicine can alleviate stress symptoms by releasing endorphins, the body’s own natural painkillers, and improving the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids which bring fresh oxygen to body tissues. This increased oxygen flow eliminates waste products from inside the body, boosts the immune system, and enhances recovery from diseases. Chinese medicine also decreases the stress hormone cortisol, lowers blood pressure, reduces heart rate, and relaxes muscle tissue. The health benefits offered by Chinese medicine, when used in conjunction with Western therapies, could have a large impact on the well-being and quality of life of active military and veterans.

For more information on how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help veterans and others suffering from stress and anxiety, please call American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine at (415) 355-1601 x12. For more information on the donation-based ear clinic, or make an appointment in the College’s full-service Community Clinic.

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About American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine
American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) has provided affordable, quality health care to the public and trained professionals in acupuncture, massage and Chinese medicine since 1980. In addition to its graduate curriculum, ACTCM offers continuing education, public education, community outreach and clinical services in acupuncture and herbal medicine. ACTCM has been the recipient of many awards for its curriculum, faculty and clinic, and has been voted “Best of the Bay” by both the San Francisco Weekly and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. ACTCM is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and is a private, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.