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What is post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd)?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a type of anxiety disorder that occurs in someone after they have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event (Hamblen, n.d.). For those who have PTSD, their stress reaction to these traumatic events does not go away and may get worse over time. 

What are the symptoms of ptsd ?

The symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) usually start within three months of the incident that has traumatized them, but they can emerge later in life (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020). To be diagnosed with PTSD, symptoms must last at least one month, be severe enough to interfere with daily life activities, and be unrelated to medication use or other illnesses (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020). These include at least one avoidance symptom, one re-experiencing symptom, at least two arousal and reactivity symptoms, and at least 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 in those who have experienced or witnessed mental and/or physical abuse, serious accidents, natural disasters, terror attacks, military combat, physical or sexual assault, or other serious life events (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020).

What are the causes of ptsd in Oriental Medicine?

In Oriental Medicine, the causes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) include Heart Shen disturbance caused by Heat Fire, or constitutional deficiency - Kidney deficiency, or Liver Qi stagnation (Sinclair-Lian et al., 2006). Other causes of PTSD in TCM are long-term Liver Qi stagnation overacting on the Spleen/Stomach, Liver Fire, Phlegm-Dampness, Phlegm Fire, and constitutional deficiencies in the Spleen and Heart organ systems (Sinclair-Lian et al., 2006). 

What can Oriental Medicine do to treat ptsd?


Evidence has shown that acupuncture can help those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) relieve their symptoms. According to research, acupuncture affects the prefrontal and limbic brain structures, as well as the autonomic nervous system, making it able to relieve the symptoms of PTSD (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 have become increasingly available to those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms. In the study by King et al. (2016), veterans with PTSD reported increased relaxation, improved sleep quality, and decreased pain after auricular acupuncture treatments. In another study, acupressure improved sleep quality and daytime dysfunction in those with PTSD (King et al., 2015). 

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


Another TCM modality, moxibustion, has been proven to help relieve Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Moxibustion is efficient in aiding depression-related fatigue, a symptom of PTSD (Somayeh, 2020). The heat generated through moxibustion can also help increase the energy flow throughout the body through the meridians, which stimulates the energy essential to help the body achieve health and wellness (Brennan, 2021). 

Cupping is another TCM modality that effectively relieves anxiety and worries in those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Chirali, 2015). Cupping also has many other purposes in traditional Chinese medicine, such as helping with inflammation, pain, blood flow, well-being, and relaxation (Pichardo, 2022).

There are a few lifestyle recommendations for those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is important to walk, jog, swim, lift weights, and do other forms of exercise to reduce physical tension (CH Center for Integrated Healthcare, 2013). It is also recommended to reconnect with and volunteer in the community,  invest in personal relationships and stay away from drugs and alcohol (VA Health Care, 2013). Other lifestyle recommendations include mindfulness meditation, physical activity engagement, aromatherapy use, art therapy, or pet adoption (Cohut, 2017). 

          At Rapha Acupuncture in Newport Beach, we are a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinic specializing in women’s and men's health and can help you design the best treatment plan for PTSD! Using acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbs customized to your symptoms, Rapha Acupuncture provides a natural and holistic solution. 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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