Military veterans and others experiencing PTSD — or post-traumatic stress disorder — may turn to traditional methods of medical treatment for help. Those methods could include therapeutic practices like cognitive behavior therapy, stress reduction techniques and prescription drugs. However, many have also found relief from PTSD symptoms by incorporating holistic health and complementary and alternative medicine approaches into their treatment plans. According to Social Worker Today:
“Not all people who have PTSD present with the same needs or the same symptoms, and no one prescriptive approach works for everyone,” says Karen Soltes, a social worker who founded Warriors at Ease, an organization that helps yoga and meditation teachers learn how to provide services to veterans and military personnel who suffer from PTSD and other combat-related illnesses.
How to treat PTSD experienced by veterans, active military personnel and others varies by individual, but natural methods like yoga and meditation, massage and acupuncture have proven helpful.
What is PTSD?
You often hear about PTSD affecting those who have served in a military combat zone, but the condition can affect anyone who has experienced a traumatic event. Events triggering PTSD could include an accident, an assault, abuse, or a man-made disaster, according to the National Center for PTSD. Sufferers of the condition develop anxiety and can have difficulty separating the traumatic event from present and future circumstances. Some symptoms can include, but aren't limited to:
- Emotional numbness
- Nightmares or other sleep disturbances
- Hyper-arousal or -vigilance
- Suicidal Thoughts
It's normal to experience some unpleasant thoughts and emotions after a traumatic event, but if the symptoms last for more than a few months, you may have PTSD.
PTSD is a painful and difficult condition to endure, and many sufferers fail to seek help due to a perceived stigma around mental illness. If you or a loved one may have the condition, don't hesitate to seek help. PTSD can effect anyone and is not a sign of weakness, experts say.
Holistic treatments can help
Yoga, meditation and massage can help anyone reduce stress and anxiety and improve mental and physical wellbeing, so it's no surprise research has shown the positive impact of those practices on patients suffering from PTSD. A study showed that yoga, for example, reduced stress, improved quality of life factors and improved the mental wellbeing of veterans suffering from combat-induced anxiety.
Studies have shown massage therapy reduces cortisol and increases serotonin and dopamine in the patient, which can help decrease feelings of hyper-arousal and danger. It can also raise the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, which can decrease feelings of anxiety and suffering.
Complementing traditional treatments
Another benefit of using yoga, massage and other alternative medicine practices to help those with PTSD is they also make overall treatment plans for stress-related illnesses more successful. According to Social Worker Today:
"Not only do some of these techniques have the potential to bring relief and reduce dependency on medication, they also may help motivate reluctant veterans toward traditional approaches and lead those already in treatment to be more engaged and compliant."
Other complementary and alternative medicine techniques used to help PTSD-sufferers include:
- Tai chi
- Guided imagery
- Relaxation therapy
This Veterans Day — November 11, 2016 — the clinic at the Acupuncture and Massage College will be offering free massage and acupuncture treatment to military veterans. Call (305) 595-9500 to schedule an appointment.