As an Acupuncturist, who receives referrals from Western Medical practitioners, I am often the practitioner of last resort. Typically these patients, who have “failed” other therapies, are truly motivated to get well and have received very competent care, yet their symptoms are not resolved. This becomes very frustrating to the patients and practitioners alike.

I have found that when there is delayed healing, there is usually a history of a severe trauma, and more frequently a history of multiple traumas. People with multiple traumas, people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) do not respond to care the way non-traumatized people do. Unfortunately, not addressing the trauma as a distinct diagnosis, causes patients to get each symptom treated by different specialists and managed by a laundry list of drugs or supplements–and they still don’t feel well, maybe worse.

In “The Body Keeps Score,” Dr. Bessel van der Kolk explains how trauma resets the brain and neuro-endocrine system (hormones and neurotransmitters) so that virtually any and all parts of a person’s being (physically and emotionally) can be impacted. We embody our wounds. Traumas can and do accumulate. Over time they may overwhelm the restitutive capacities of a person’s nervous system and psyche. The onset of symptoms may be immediate or emerge months, even years later. Beyond the physical symptoms, unmanaged PTSD can lead to problems with substance abuse, depression, low self esteem and relationship problems.

Chinese Medicine considers trauma a Heart Shock, a disharmony of the Heart and Kidneys, a separation of Yin and Yang (loss of homeostasis), and Soul Loss (dissociative disorders). Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture has a paradigm to organize, treat, and make sense of these seemingly complex, disparate symptoms.

A pilot study through the NIH (National Institutes of Health) showed that Acupuncture alone had treatment effects similar to cognitive-behavioral therapy (current treatment of choice) and that both groups maintained benefits at 3 months post-treatment (“Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases,” June, 2007). Combined treatments may even work better.

I feel that Americans are in a collective state of post-traumatic stress, most recently caused by the economic meltdown, 9/11, multiple wars, and harsh storms. The media induces flashbacks via repetitive images, and we have very real threats to our safety, our health, and our economic security.

We have a tremendous capacity to self-heal. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can start the process in remarkable ways.

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