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Acupuncture for the Treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

13 August 2011


Background: Of those military service members returning from the current conflict in the Middle East, nearly 20% report symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and only slightly more than half of them seek treatment. Most of these patients are reluctant to participate in traditional interventions such as group or individual psychotherapy, or the supplemental anti-depressives or anxiety pharmaceuticals prescribed to alleviate their symptoms. Through a systematic review of the literature based on GRADE criteria to validate the quality of evidence, this paper seeks to evaluate alternative medicine practices for the treatment of PTSD that are both effective and appealing to the patient.

Method: An exhaustive search of available medical literature was conducted using specific inclusion/exclusion criteria. Nineteen studies were selected for review. After applying inclusion/exclusion criteria, two studies were selected to be analyzed.

Results: An initial search of available medical literature journal databases using specific keyword searches produced 19 articles for analysis. From these initial resulting studies, all unanimously showed positive results for the use of acupuncture in effectively reducing patients’ depression and anxiety. None of the studies produced showed any evidence of adverse effects for the use of acupuncture in the treatment of PTSD. These articles were then limited to the time span of 2002 to the present in order to best capture those studies limited to investigations of servicemen and women specific to the current Middle East conflict. Several studies were excluded as anecdotal or small population case studies. The remaining 2 studies included Randomized Control Trials and Cohort Studies. These studies uniformly supported the use of acupuncture as therapy for PTSD.

Conclusion: Based on GRADE criteria, acupuncture used as an alternative to traditional cognitive behavioral therapy or anti-depressive/ mood-altering pharmaceuticals provides equal to superior results in patients’ symptom resolution and in extended remission of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Keywords: Acupuncture, PTSD, Veterans, Military


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