Acupuncture for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Conceptual, Clinical, and Biological Data Support Further Research

CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics

Volume 17, Issue 6, pages 769–779, December 2011

Acupuncture for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Conceptual, Clinical, and Biological Data Support Further Research

  1. Michael Hollifield

Article first published online: 26 FEB 2011

DOI: 10.1111/j.1755-5949.2011.00241.x


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common, debilitating, and has highly heterogeneous clinical and biological features. With the exception of one published preliminary clinical trial, rationale in support of the efficacy of acupuncture, a modality of Chinese medicine (CM), for PTSD has not been well described.

This is a focused review of conceptual and clinical features of PTSD shared by modern western medicine (MWM) and CM, and of biological mechanisms of acupuncture that parallel known PTSD pathology. MWM and CM both recognize individual developmental variables and interactions between external conditions and internal responses in the genesis of PTSD.

There is one published and one unpublished clinical trial that preliminarily support the efficacy of acupuncture for PTSD. Although there have been no mechanistic studies of acupuncture in human PTSD, extant research shows that acupuncture has biological effects that are relevant to PTSD pathology. Conceptual, clinical, and biological data support possible efficacy of acupuncture for PTSD. However, further definitive research about simultaneous clinical and biological effects is needed to support the use of acupuncture for PTSD in health care systems.

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