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PTSD and Acupuncture

By Dr. Robin James-Manning, Maggie Tracey O.M.D.


Acupuncture is part of 2000 year old medical tradition which originated in China and continues to function as the main healthcare system for hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide. While for most of its long and notable history, it’s practice was confined to Asia, in the past half century, it’s use and acceptance in the United States, Canada and Europe has seen an unprecedented growth. in 1973, Nevada was the first state to legalize acupuncture. 


One application of acupuncture, which has attracted tremendous interest in the scientific community is in the chemical, dependency, (alcohol and drug addiction) field. The work of Dr. Michael Smith at Lincoln Hospital in New York City in the late 1970’s led to the formation of the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) codification of the NADA protocol five needles inserted at specific points in the ear. Research has shown that before individuals can overcome chemical addiction, attention must be given to the alleviation of the diverse array of mental-physical stresses impacting their lives. Further research demonstrated that the NAD protocol addressed both the addictive component, and the stress component of drug dependency. And, if the treatments were administered and a group setting, the person felt supported at a community level. In brief, recovery from chemical addiction, mirrors, the recovery path for individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression.


Clinical and experimental data indicate that most acupuncture clinical results are mediated by the central nervous system (Hui 2005). Functional MRI and PET studies on acupuncture at specific acupuncture points have demonstrated significant modulatory effects on the limbic system, Paralympic, and subcortical Gray structures (Hui 2005). In a recent MRI study by Hui et al. (2005), Acupuncture stimulation at a specific acupuncture point, produced a reduction in neuronal activity; particularly the limbic/paralympic structures and limbic cortices in the cerebrum (amygdala, hippocampus, cingulate, septal area, temporal pole, frontal pole, and another fMRI study by Liu (2000) found that acupuncture, modulates the limbic system, and the subcortical gray structures of the human brain when a specific point is stimulated. The Armed Services (Navy, Army Marines, and Air Force) are beginning to use acupuncture on the battlefield and in hospitals. And April 23, 2011 New York Times article highlighted the use of acupuncture and Afghanistan for trauma and injury.


Knowing that unresolved trauma can have repercussions for decades, acupuncture treatments, interrupt this cycle of pain and chaos and help to relieve suffering.


With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the recent tragic shootings in Carson City, acupuncture is another avenue to assist healing in the trauma and grief people may be experiencing.




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