Exploring Acupuncture as a Promising Treatment for PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a complex mental health condition that can significantly impact a person's well-being and quality of life. Traditional treatment approaches for PTSD often involve a combination of therapy and medication. However, in recent years, alternative and complementary therapies have gained attention as potential adjunctive treatments. One such therapy is acupuncture, an ancient Chinese practice that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body.

What is PTSD:

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person but often include intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance, anxiety, and depression. While therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), remain the primary treatment options, some individuals may not respond fully or may experience unwanted side effects. This has led to the exploration of alternative therapies like acupuncture.

Acupuncture, its Mechanisms of Action and Research on Acupuncture and PTSD:

From a modern medical perspective, acupuncture is thought to trigger a variety of physiological responses. The insertion of needles stimulates the nervous system, releasing neurotransmitters such as endorphins, which are the body's natural painkillers. Acupuncture may also modulate the release of stress hormones, reduce inflammation, and improve blood circulation, all of which can contribute to the therapeutic effects experienced by individuals with PTSD.

Acupuncture has shown promise as an effective treatment for PTSD. While treatment options for PTSD are limited, preliminary studies suggest that acupuncture can be a safe and beneficial approach. Research indicates that acupuncture can regulate the autonomic nervous system, restore the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, and influence various regions of the brain, including the limbic system and cortical areas associated with memory processing.

Furthermore, acupuncture has been found to decrease the activation of brain areas involved in controlling emotions and memories while increasing resting-state functional connectivity. This increase in connectivity has been associated with clinical improvement, indicating that acupuncture may help individuals with PTSD experience relief from their symptoms.


While traditional treatments such as therapy and medication remain the foundation of PTSD management, the potential benefits of acupuncture in alleviating symptoms and improving overall well-being cannot be ignored. Acupuncture has shown promise in reducing anxiety, promoting better sleep, and enhancing quality of life for individuals with PTSD.

Amir Assouline et al Translational Psychiatry (2022) 12:110

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