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Treating Combat Vets with PTSD

AOM-earCertain acupuncture protocols have proved to be very effective in reducing the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in combat veterans. Because of this, the NUHS Whole Health Center - Lombard now offers acupuncture treatment for veterans suffering from PTSD.

Frank Yurasek, PhD (China), MSOM, assistant dean of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at NUHS says, "There are more veterans surviving battlefield injuries due to improvements in traumatic injury care, and more veterans who have been through more tours of duty during these conflicts. We can offer them real help in healing the psychological and physical trauma so that they can transition back into a more peaceful and satisfying life."

Vets visiting the NUHS clinic receive auricular acupuncture (using points in the ear) using the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) protocol. This system uses small pellets or needles in the following points:

  • Shen Men (Spirit Gate): used to calm the mind and ease pain;
  • Sympathetic Point: used to balance autonomic nervous system and the "fight or flight" response;
  • Kidney Point: strengthens the body's energy, immune system and controls fear and anxiety;
  • Liver Point: controls anger and has a detox effect on alcohol and drug abuse;
  • Lung Point: controls grief and strengthens and detoxifies lungs.

Additionally, the NUHS clinic gives vets instruction in Tai Chi and Qi Gong movement therapy for deep relaxation and a way to deal with stress. Veterans with chronic pain from injuries are given "take-home therapy" in the form of acupressure micro-points they can stimulate for quick pain relief, as well as eye-movement therapy they can use at home to re-program traumatic memories.

Dr . Yurasek

Dr. Yurasek has traveled across the country participating in seminars with like-minded groups working to expand the use of acupuncture for victims of trauma, and sharing his expertise with others. "There is a group called 'Acupuncturists Without Borders' that used these same protocols on 9/11 first responders at ground zero, as well as with victims of the earthquake in Haiti," he says.

Acupuncture Without Borders currently operates one free clinic for veterans in downtown Chicago, but the facility is only open one evening per week. Dr. Yurasek believes that offering a second clinic on the NUHS campus will allow more veterans living in the greater Chicago area to receive the help they need. Also, by incorporating the veterans' clinic into the clinical program at NUHS, interns studying for their master's degree in acupuncture or oriental medicine receive first-hand training in the protocols and have an opportunity to work with the veterans. 

Dr. Yurasek hopes this will encourage his students to provide similar services in their communities after they graduate. "I understand how devastating PTSD can be. I have a family member who took his own life from lack of care following his return from serving in the Pacific in World War II. One of the main issues of returning vets is drug and alcohol abuse. I have used the NADA protocol to treat over 20,000 drug and alcohol abusers and violent offenders in my work for 15 years with Northern Illinois Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse. I know from experience that this is an effective form of treatment for our underserved veterans."

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