Effectiveness of Acupuncture for PTSD in Military Personnel

Two research articles, listed below, about the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) using acupuncture surfaced in my search. These articles represent particular interest due to the fact that they were based on research done by the US military. More than 1.5 million US military personnel have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since the start of military operations in 2001.2 Approximately 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from PTSD or major depression, and about 320,000 may have experienced at least a mild concussion or brain injury in combat, according to the RAND Corporation study titled The Invisible Wounds of War.4 As a result US Military is looking for effective method of treating PTSD.

Even though current research studies on the use of acupuncture for the treatment of PTSD are scarce, research suggests that acupuncture may be an effective and efficient treatment option for PTSD. One randomized controlled trial on the use of acupuncture for PTSD on the civilian population demonstrated significant reductions in PTSD symptoms. In addition to that, treatment effects for depression, anxiety, and impairment in the acupuncture group improved significantly more than the control group. Studies assessing acupuncture’s role in mitigating individual symptoms of PTSD, such as migraines, anxiety, depression, and insomnia, demonstrate significant reductions in these symptoms for the studies’ participants. Clinical and experimental data also suggest that at least some acupuncture clinical results are mediated in the central nervous system. fMRI and PET studies on acupuncture at specific acupuncture points have demonstrated significant fMRI neuronal signal reduction in the limbic system. This study could possibly explain the sedating effects of acupuncture on patients with anxiety disorders, which could be an effective treatment plan for PTSD patients with severe hyperarousal.

  1. Efficacy of Acupuncture for PTSD in Military Personnel: A Randomized Controlled Trial.
  2. Acupuncture for the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Review of Evidence-Based Research.
  3. Hoge CW, McGurk D, Thomas JL, Cox AL, Engel CC, Castro CA. Mild traumatic brain injury in U.S. Soldiers returning from Iraq. N Engl J Med. 2008;358(5):453-463.
  4. Tanielian TL, Jaycox LH. Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Recovery. Arlington, VA: RAND Corporation; 2008.