What is acupuncture for PTSD?

Acupuncture is practiced as an accepted health care model in China, Korea and Japan. Traditionally, it involves the stimulation of specific points (acupoints) by inserting needles into the skin. Electro-acupuncture is similar in that the same points are stimulated with needles inserted on specific points along the body. It uses two needles attached to an electrical device that generates continuous electric pulses. These pass from one needle to the other with varying frequency and intensity dictated by the condition. Administration is usually for no more than 30 minutes at a time. Laser acupuncture is essentially the same except that a laser is used instead of needles. Moxibustion uses heat from burning a herb (artemisia vulgaris), or uses an electric source, to stimulate specific points or areas of the body.

One of the challenges in performing efficacy trials of acupuncture is that it is difficult to provide a control condition. Sham methods that have been used include needling the wrong points or with very superficial technique. Or using a simulation of laser acupuncture without full stimulation.

What is the evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture in people with PTSD?

Moderate to low quality evidence found improvements in PTSD symptoms and some improvement in depression symptoms and functioning following needle acupuncture (30 to 60 minutes per session, 2 to 4 sessions per week over 3 to 12 weeks). There were no improvements in anxiety, sleep, or quality of life. Some participants experienced minor to moderate pain, superficial bleeding, and hematoma at needle insertion sites.

August 2021

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Last updated at: 1:56 pm, 15th February 2022
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Tags:  Acupuncture

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