What is Trauma-Informed Acupuncture Care?

What is Trauma-Informed Acupuncture Care?

Trauma is an important topic related to acupuncture, as many people’s health complaints can be linked to or worsened by a history of traumatic experiences.

Trauma-Informed Acupuncture Care

Acupuncture, as a unique therapy that can positively impact the body as well as the mind, (or the “body-mind”) can be particularly beneficial for patients in which a history of trauma is a major factor.

Which conditions related to trauma can acupuncture help treat?

  • Headache
  • Chronic pain
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

This list is based on both clinical experience, and the findings of a research paper, titled: “The effectiveness of trauma related research across components of the trauma spectrum response (tsr): a systematic review of reviews” (Lee et al, 2012).

Do I need to see a therapist for trauma or is trauma-informed acupuncture enough on its own?

When trauma is the major factor related to a health condition, we recommend also being under the care of a mental health profession to learn to thrive while living with a history of trauma. Psychotherapy with a somatic sensory-based approach may be especially helpful in cases related to trauma (Kearney and Lanius, 2021).

Acupuncture is another modality that can support a patient in a number of ways.

How is acupuncture helpful for trauma?

  • Regulates autonomic nervous system – takes us out of “fight, flight or freeze” mode, and puts us into “relax, repair, rebuild” mode.
  • Acupuncture helps reduce the symptoms of traumatic stress in the body, without necessarily having to talk about or re-experience the trauma.
  • Helps patients have positive experiences of therapeutic touch to add to their memory bank, building a sense of trust and security.
  • Regulates multiple body systems simultaneously for a sense of wellbeing and resilience.

Do I have to tell my acupuncturist the whole story of the trauma that I experienced in order to get relief from my symptoms?

No, it is not required to share with a clinician about a trauma to receive the health benefit of acupuncture related to trauma. We practice trauma-informed acupuncture here at Lokahi Acupuncture, so we consider that any patient that comes through the door may have a history of trauma, even if they haven’t shared it with us. That means we create a treatment experience that respects the dignity and autonomy of patients, and avoids re-traumatizing.

However, some patients choose to share about their trauma and that is ok too. It’s ok to tell your story, and it is also ok to just mention a condition is related to trauma, but not go into detail – how much a patient shares is up to the patient.

Some patients find it helpful to share with their acupuncturist if they need certain conditions maintained such as keeping the room well lighted or the door open. Patients that experience frequent flashbacks related to post-traumatic stress disorder may also choose to share with us, so that we know how we can help if a patient experiences a flashback while at the clinic.

Am I the only one experiencing this?

If you are experiencing health concerns that you feel are related to trauma, please know that you are definitely not alone in this.

Trauma is actually found to be widespread, though certain groups have a higher risk of being exposed to more trauma throughout their lives, and some individuals have greater lifetime effects of trauma to their health (Tebes et al, 2019).

While more information is making its way to the public about the effects of trauma on health in recent years, it is still a topic that is often not widely shared. As clinicians that take an oath of confidentiality, we hear stories daily of how traumatic events affect the lives and health of our patients.

Please know that you are not alone in this, and that there are helpful therapies available.

Anna Rudel
San Jose Acupuncturist
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Kearney BE, Lanius RA. The brain-body disconnect: A somatic sensory basis for trauma-related disorders. Front Neurosci. 2022 Nov 21;16:1015749. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2022.1015749. PMID: 36478879; PMCID: PMC9720153.

Lee C, Crawford C, Wallerstedt D, York A, Duncan A, Smith J, Sprengel M, Welton R, Jonas W. The effectiveness of acupuncture research across components of the trauma spectrum response (tsr): a systematic review of reviews. Syst Rev. 2012 Oct 15;1:46. doi: 10.1186/2046-4053-1-46. PMID: 23067573; PMCID: PMC3534620.

Tebes JK, Champine RB, Matlin SL, Strambler MJ. Population Health and Trauma-Informed Practice: Implications for Programs, Systems, and Policies. Am J Community Psychol. 2019 Dec;64(3-4):494-508. doi: 10.1002/ajcp.12382. Epub 2019 Aug 24. PMID: 31444915; PMCID: PMC7006880.