By Kathleen Rushall
The oldest documented medical system to recognize the connection between body and mind, Chinese medicine is an optimum treatment choice for trauma victims. There are several forms of trauma. Perhaps the best known is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is a condition formed after a person undergoes a harrowing physical or emotional event such as a war experience, car crash, natural disaster, or extreme emotional loss. Trauma can also relate to the anxiety, depression, and grief that can develop after a tragic event.
Chinese medicine is particularly effective for trauma relief because the method of diagnosis involves searching for the root of a person’s distress, rather than merely treating the symptoms. By thoroughly investigating the cause of a patient’s stress disorder, origin and continuing source of discomfort and fear is recognized and more readily conquered. Whether a treatment occurs quickly after a traumatic event has been experienced or years later, acupuncture can help relieve tension.
In the case of trauma caused by a natural disaster, groups of acupuncturists often volunteer their time and expertise alongside Red Cross workers at shelters. Volunteer faculty and students from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, San Diego, alleviated pain, tension, and stress in trauma victims after the wildfires of 2007 swept the county. Acupuncturists Without Borders donated their skills to Hurricane Katrina survivors, who stated after their treatments that their shoulder tension and angst was relieved almost immediately. Acupuncture is an incredibly viable source of healing no only because of the connection it makes between mind and body health, but because of its accessibility. It is a mobile art. Practitioners can easily travel to trauma victims due to the light equipment they require. Acupuncture is a low-cost modality that offers instant and effective relief for large numbers of people, and it is adaptable to multiple settings, lending itself to emergency aid pain relief.
However, acupuncture’s usefulness is not confined to states of crisis. Trauma and shock can derive from an incident in a person’s life that occurred many years ago, even at birth. It is never too late for the treatment of trauma, and acupuncture is not the only method in traditional Chinese medicine that may help. Through a complex examination of a patient’s body, including the tongue, pulse, and eyes, a practitioner can decipher what kind of trauma the person is suffering from – even if the event that originally caused his or her psychological damage is blocked or not memorable. Chinese herbology, meditation exercises, body massage, and deep breathing exercises, as well as tai chi and qi gong exercises can all deeply affect a patient in a positive way.
The body and the mind are equally important in Chinese medicine. This is why it is an unparalleled resource for those suffering from trauma: the physical condition is directly connected to the psychological one. Trauma, both physical and emotional, affects a person’s “qi,” or life force and energy. Acupuncture operates by using specific points on the body that are thought to correlate with certain organs, as well as the nervous system. By stimulating these points with extremely thin needles, the brain is calmed. Points are chosen after meticulous questioning and observation on the part of the practitioner.
Similar to treating addiction, trauma acupuncture treatments involve helping a person to let go of a memory or need. Acupuncture can help trauma victims release their fear and realize that the emergency is over. With careful diagnosis and a complete understanding of the person’s situation, acupuncturists will use specific points on the body to help align one’s qi, to rejuvenate a person’s energy, relieve pain, ease tension, and revitalize their sense of well-being.