Acupuncture and Trauma

As I continue with my pre-medicine studies this year, I have come full circle back to one of my initial interests in acupuncture: treating trauma.  When a person has gone through a traumatic event or events, the brain may have difficulty processing what has happened.  This may leave a person with both lingering psychological and physiological symptoms that interfere with daily life.  There are many methods in acupuncture and Chinese medicine that can aid people, enhancing both the therapeutic process and recovery.

While using acupuncture directly to treat trauma is the most direct way for an acupuncturist to help healing, some people may find the idea of needles themselves to be fear inducing.  Needles don’t have to be involved in order for the system behind acupuncture and Chinese medicine to be of service.  Acupressure, acutonics (the use of tuning forks at acupuncture points), Japanese-style acupuncture, tuina and shiatsu can all be utilized to work around this, minimizing exposure to a triggering medium.

Bessel van der Kolk, one of the leading experts on trauma in the United States, passionately expounds on the need for integrative methods in treating trauma in his book, “The Body Keeps the Score“.  In it, he finds that one of the most common methods that people used to recover from the trauma of 9/11 was acupuncture.  While he doesn’t specifically explore acupuncture and Chinese medicine directly, massage and treatment methods that involve helping body and mind integrate and relax are. It is in this way that East Asian medicine can benefit people who have gone through trauma.

While I don’t currently have a practice set up as I study and prepare to get into medical school, I am excited about continuing my journey as a practitioner while going in this direction.  I am passionate about remaining up to date on integrative and complementary methods of treating trauma, and look forward to being a part of people’s healing process.

What is Chinese herbalism?

Chinese-style herbalism is different from what we generally think of as herbalism here in the West.  While Western-style herbalists usually use one herb to address symptomatic complaints, Chinese herbalism utilizes a complex system of diagnoses called pattern identification.  From assessment of the tongue, pulse, body, and interview, a Chinese-style herbalist puts together a diagnosis that they feel gets to the root of the problem.  With this diagnosis, an herbal formula is selected.

Chinese herbalism has a long history of herbalists who have created formulas that address a wide variety of problems.  Formulas nearly a thousand years old are still utilized everyday by practitioners.  Modifications are usually made to a formula by adding herbs to tailor to the patient’s complaint.  In this way, nearly every formula is unique to the individual.  Seven patients with the same complaint will most likely get seven different formulas, depending on how the problem manifests in that patient.  This is the strength of this style of herbalism.  When done properly, it can be extraordinarily effective.