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Acupuncture Today – January, 2015, Vol. 16, Issue 01

Treating Our Veterans with PTSD

By Abbye Silverstein, LAc

As July 4th, Memorial Day and Veterans Day continue to pass year in and year out, we honor our veterans from past wars with parades, BBQs and a day off from work, but our veterans live daily with the spiritual scars of war.

They are wounded psychologically, emotionally and mentally, affecting them on physical levels that have disabled them to fully participate in many aspects of daily life.

The post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) our veterans live with may appear the same on physical levels, as civilians suffer from the same diagnosis. The difference lies in the origin of the disorder. Veterans are not victims of war, but the perpetrators living with images, flashbacks and nightmares of the faces of the "enemy," destroyed houses, buildings, towns and dead/lost fellow soldiers. After WWII, survivor's guilt was coined when Holocaust survivors realized they had lost their family and friends to the Nazi death camps. Today, our veterans from Vietnam, Desert Storm, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan live with survivor's guilt as part of their PTSD. As civilians, we view this from a distance, unfamiliar with the dynamics and depth of their pain.

Military PTSD has been called "shell shock." It is caused by serious accidents, terrorist attacks or even sexual assaults. When danger is "preceived," the amygdala, the part of the brain that identifies a threat, is triggered by ordinary, harmless sounds, smells, images, thoughts or feelings. It sends impulses to the autonomic nervous system to sound an alarm response of fight, flight or freeze. Neurotransmitters in the sympathetic nervous system release neurohormones (cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine and opioids) to combat the danger. Neurohormones are mobilized to numb the system while the threat is being dealt with. When neurohormones are released in the bloodstream, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, body temperature and vision are all affected, causing the flight/flight/freeze response. The common effects of PTSD are: flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, depression, lack of concentration, anxiety, aggressive behavior, anger, agitation, hyper alert and racing thoughts. Due to these symtpoms, veterans suffer with alienation issues, difficulty maintaining relationships and employment, alcohol and drug abuse, low self esteem and identity isssues.

ptsd - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark In November 2013, I had the opportunity to be part of the healing solution when I became an acupuncturist for the Healing Warriors Program Fort Collins clinic. HWP is a 501c-3 non-profit clinic offerring acupuncture, cranial sacral therapy and healing touch treatments to veterans active, retired and separated from all wars,plus their spouses and adult children. We offer three free treatments and then charge $30/treatment. We are a VA-approved fee-based clinic. Three days a week, I provide acupuncture to our veterans and their family members.

I was very enthusiatic about working with our veterans because I had pursued treating this population in 2011 and was unsuccessful. I thought this would be a perfect population to benefit from my Five Element possesion protocols and help them clear the layers of PTSD symptoms.

I was in for a very big surprise! Quickly, I realized the patients returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were more fragile than my previous patients who suffered from PTSD due to rape (from incest, date rape and being attacked), verbal and physical abuse. My previous patients were victims of situations. The young men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were perpetrators who went to war with the best intentions believing we were there to help the victims of war. They came back with deep spiritual scars and physical pain which remind them daily of their emotional/psychological wounds. I began to focus on physical pain relief including the NADA protocol (Shen Men, Sympathetic Nervous System, KI, LV, LU) in every treatment to discharge the fight/flight/freeze response of PTSD. The NADA protocol provides the patients with tranquility, allowing the central nervous system to relax, rebalance and restore equilibrium.

Ordinarily, I would administer a series of Five Element trauma protocols during the first three treatments. These trauma protocols are: Aggressive Energy (AE), Internal Demons (ID) and External Dragons (ED). These trauma protocols have their roots in the Shamanic tradition believing that the patient is possesed by "evil forces." The AE protocol also known as "Evil Qi" creates heat along the K'o (control) cycle creating toxic and polluted energy causing the patient to be mentally and spiritually agitated. The ID protocol addresses emotional trauma, where the ED addresses physical trauma. Both protocols address the possession of "evil forces" inhibiting the patient from getting well and progressing with their healing.

At HWP, every patient receives both the ED protocol (DU 20, BL 11,23,61 – all dispersed) simultaneously with the AE protocol (BL 13,14,15.18.20 tapped in– even technique, 23 already inserted). Leave both protocols in together for at least 20 minutes or until the patient is restless. ED protocol treats physical trauma that recurs like wind moving through the joints, muscles and organs of the body never being released. Due to the nature of wind being trapped in the body for long periods of time, pain moves and settles to different injured areas. This treatment alone is very subtle, but when added to the AE protocol which rebalances and restores Qi, the ED protocol is released and the patient experiences a renewed state of grounding. Both of these protocols are very safe and do not recharge PTSD memories.

To ensure the patient's emotional stability and our bonded relationship, I have waited three to four months to administer the ID protocol (Ren 15 14" below, ST 25,32,41 – all dispersed) with the NADA protocol. I describe the treatment to the patient and ask if they are ready to release a layer of their emotional trauma. The intention of the practitioner is to create a safe space for the patient to release their emotional obsession/possession. It is a powerful treatment and when administered at the right time, it frees the patient of spiritual, mental and emotional pain. I advise the patient to watch the images and emotions like a movie in a theater and not to become attached to the "show." I open a window and/or place a bowl of water or crystal under the table to release the errant energies. If you are unsure of how to administer this treatment, consult a Five Element practitioner.

Our veterans need unconditional love and emotional support. Your role as a practitioner is to hold a safe space for them to be seen and heard. Some of my conversations with my veteran patients have choked me up bringing tears to my eyes. I have cried, laughed and sat in silence with them. This is soul work and you need to be prepared to be present with your heart and soul.

Abbye Silverstein, LAc, is a Colorado licensed acupuncturist practicing for more than 15 years. For eight years she was an associate professor and clinical supervisor at Southwest Acupuncture in Boulder, teaching the integration of Five Element Acupuncture and Eight Principle Theory (TCM). She is completing her first book, a manual integrating Five Element and TCM theories. You can contact her at .

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