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Navigate Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with TCM

What is post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd)?

          Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common anxiety disorder that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. PTSD symptoms, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and avoidance of trauma reminders, can persist for months or even years and may worsen over time (Hamblen, 2023). 

What are the symptoms of ptsd ?


          Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms can start within three months of a traumatic event and persist for months or years, interfering with daily life. To be diagnosed with PTSD, symptoms must meet specific criteria, including at least one avoidance symptom, one re-experiencing symptom, two arousal and reactivity symptoms, and two cognition and mood symptoms (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020). Avoidance symptoms include avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the event or staying away from places or objects that are reminders of the experience. Re-experiencing symptoms include flashbacks, distressing thoughts, or recurring memories or dreams of the event. Arousal and reactivity symptoms include being easily startled, difficulty concentrating, or irritability. Additionally, cognition and mood symptoms include trouble remembering critical features of the traumatic event or having negative thoughts about oneself or the world.

How does ptsd happen?


          Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop at any age after experiencing or witnessing a wide range of traumatic events, including mental and/or physical abuse, accidents, natural disasters, terror attacks, military combat, and sexual assault (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020). 

What are the causes of ptsd in Oriental Medicine?


          Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a complex disorder caused by imbalances in the Heart, Liver, Spleen, and Kidney organ systems. These imbalances can be due to a variety of factors, including Heart Shen disturbance caused by Heat Fire, long-term Liver Qi stagnation overacting on the Spleen/Stomach, Liver Fire, Phlegm-Dampness, Phlegm Fire, and constitutional deficiencies in the Heart, Spleen and Kidney organ systems (Sinclair-Lian et al., 2006). 

What can Oriental Medicine do to treat ptsd?

          Evidence has shown that acupuncture can help relieve Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Study shows acupuncture affects the prefrontal and limbic brain structures, as well as the autonomic nervous system (Ding et al., 2020). Acupuncture can also help alleviate PTSD symptoms in several other ways. For example, specific acupuncture points send deactivating signals to the hippocampus, amygdala, and other brain regions associated with pain and fear (Church & Feinstein, 2017). In addition, further evidence has shown that acupuncture reduces the stress hormone cortisol, modulates pain, and increases the production of serotonin (Church & Feinstein, 2017). 

          Ear acupuncture/acupressure is a promising treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms, with studies showing that it can improve relaxation, sleep quality, daytime dysfunction, and pain relief among veterans with PTSD (King et al., 2015, 2016).

          Traditional Chinese herbs can also aid in dealing with the symptoms that accompany Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In the study by Meng et al. (2011), the researchers used a modified classic Chinese herbal formula called XTJYF derived from Xiao-Yao-San. Patients who were given this formula had a significant improvement in sleep quality. Traditional Chinese herbs also helped improve symptom clusters of PTSD (Hong et al., 2017). 


          Moxibustion, a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) modality, can help relieve Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms, including depression-related fatigue (Somayeh, 2020). The heat generated from moxibustion can also help increase energy flow throughout the body, stimulating the energy to help the body achieve health and wellness (Brennan, 2021). 

          Cupping, a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) modality, can effectively relieve anxiety and worries in people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Chirali, 2015). Cupping is also used in TCM to help with inflammation, pain, blood flow, well-being, and relaxation (Pichardo, 2022). 


Lifestyle recommendations for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) include:

  • Physical activity engagement: walk, jog, swim, lift weights, and other forms of exercise to reduce physical tension (CH Center for Integrated Healthcare, 2013)

  • Social engagement:  reconnect with and volunteer in the community and invest in personal relationships (VA Health Care, 2013)

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol (VA Health Care, 2013)

  • Perform mindfulness meditation (Cohut, 2017)

  • Use aromatherapy, art therapy, or pet adoption (Cohut, 2017)

          Rapha Acupuncture in Newport Beach, a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinic specializing in women's and men's health, offers natural and holistic treatment plans for PTSD. Our experienced acupuncturists will customize your treatment to address your specific symptoms using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) therapies.   Give us a call today!

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Brennan, D. (2021, June 23). Moxibustion: Definition, technique, benefits, and risk factors. WebMD. 

CH Center for Integrated Healthcare. (2013, July). Lifestyle changes recommended for PTSD patients. VA Health Care. 


Chirali, I. Z. (2014). Traditional Chinese medicine cupping therapy (Third edition). Cupping therapy evidence-based research (pp. 247-310). Churchill Livingstone.


Church, D., & Feinstein, D. (2017, August 1). The manual stimulation of acupuncture points in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder: A review of Clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques. Medical Acupuncture, 29(4), 194-205. http://doi: 10.1089/acu.2017.1213.


Cohut, M. (2017, October 20). PTSD: Five effective coping strategies. Medical News Today. 


Ding, N., Li, L., Song, K., Huang, A., & Zhang, H. (2020, June 26). Efficacy and safety of acupuncture in treating post-traumatic stress disorder: A protocol for systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine, 99(26): e20700. http://doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000020700

Hamblen, J. (n.d.). What is PTSD? A handout from the National Center for PTSD.  


Hong, C., Schüffler, A., Kauhl, U., Cao, J., Wu, C.-F., Opatz, T., Thines, E., & Efferth, T. (2017, April 20). Identification of NF-ΚB as determinant of posttraumatic stress disorder and its inhibition by the Chinese herbal remedy free and easy wanderer (FAEW). Frontiers in Pharmacology, 8(181), 1-17.


King, H. C., Moore, C., & Spence, D. L. (2016, September). Exploring self-reported benefits of auricular acupuncture among veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Holistic Nursing: Official Journal of the American Holistic Nurses' Association, 34(3), 291–299.


King, H. C., Spence, D. L., Hickey, A. H., Sargent, P., Elesh, R., & Connelly, C. D. (2015, May). Auricular acupuncture for sleep disturbance in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder: A feasibility study. Military Medicine, 180(5), 582–590.

Meng, X.-Z., Wu, F., Wei, P.-K., Xiu, L.-J., Shi, J., Pang, B., Sun, D.-Z., Qin, Z.-F., Huang, Y., & Lao, L. (2011, October 19). A Chinese herbal formula to improve general psychological status in posttraumatic stress disorder: A randomized placebo-controlled trial on sichuan earthquake survivors. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: eCAM, 691258.


Pichardo, G. & Ansorge, R. (2022, November 5). What is cupping therapy? Uses, benefits, side effects, and more. WebMD. 


Sinclair-Lian, N., Hollifield, M., Menache, M., Warner, T., Viscaya, J., & Hammerschlag, R. (2006). Developing a traditional Chinese medicine diagnostic structure for post-traumatic stress disorder. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.), 12(1), 45-57.


Somayeh, I., Cai, L., Ha, L., Zhou, S., Shi, C., Ma, Y., Yao, Q., Xu, K., & Zhao, B. (2020, February). Moxibustion at ‘Danzhong’ (RN17) and ‘Guanyuan’ (RN4) for fatigue symptom in patients with depression. Medicine, 99(7):p e19197. 10.1097/MD.0000000000019197


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020). Post-traumatic stress disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. 

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