Acupuncture May Help Alleviate Sleep Symptoms in Veterans with PTSD, TBI

Acupuncture May Help Alleviate Sleep Symptoms in Veterans with PTSD, TBI

Many military veterans who fought for our country have historically faced uphill battles when they return to civilian life altered by war and service-connected injuries. That includes physical injuries such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI), considered the “signature wound” of vets who serves in Iraq and Afghanistan, and less tangible psychological and emotional conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Today, increasing awareness about the need to provide better support to the brave men and women who served in our armed forces is prompting new research, and new approaches to treating their symptoms and improving their quality of life – including alternative forms of treatment like acupuncture.

What is Acupuncture?

Though acupuncture is considered a form of alternative medicine with a frequently studied and often contested conceptual basis, its use throughout the centuries as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and its growing popularity and development in the western world have produced more research on how it works, and how it potentially helps.

In short, acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into the body, most often along locations called “meridians,” which include tissues of the skin, muscle, joints, bones, and tendons. Concepts of TCM have traditionally held that a life force energy known as qi (“chi”) flows from the body’s main organs into these meridians, and can be harmonized through acupuncture and stimulation at strategic points. Today, modern medical studies have suggested the insertion of acupuncture needles may stimulate the body’s central nervous system and the release of certain chemicals produced naturally by the body.

While acupuncture may lie in the borderlands of rational medical science and mysticism or “pseudoscience,” many people report positive results using acupuncture to treat issues such as chronic, joint, and lower back pain, headaches and migraines, arthritis, and nausea, and to relieve symptoms caused by cancer treatments or surgery with few if any side effects. In recent years, studies have found that acupuncture may also be beneficial for people who suffer from sleep disturbances.

Clinical Trial on Acupuncture for Sleep-Troubled Vets

According to a recent randomized clinical trial conducted by researchers at the Atlanta VA Medical Center and Emory University School of Medicine and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, acupuncture may have useful benefits for helping veterans struggling with service-connected conditions improve their quality of sleep. Here’s more about the study:

  • Sleep difficulties are among the most significant symptoms experienced by veterans with TBI and PTSD, and it can make both conditions more difficult to treat. The clinical trial assessed data focused on the use of acupuncture as a potential treatment alternative that may have less adverse effects than traditional therapies, such as medication.
  • Researchers evaluated 60 veterans with diagnosed TBI and sleep disturbances. Approximately 2/3 of the veterans also had PTSD.
  • The trial randomly assigned participants to receive 10, 1-hour sessions of real acupuncture or “sham acupuncture” needling procedures (placebo). They then evaluated changes in their PSQI (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index) scores, and data measurements provided through monitoring devices worn on participants’ wrists while sleeping.
  • Ultimately, researchers noted an average PSQI improvement of 4.4 points in vets who underwent real acupuncture therapy, compared to just 2.4 points among those who received the sham procedures. Data from the wrist actigraphy monitors further showed a nearly 3% average improvement in sleep efficiency among vets who had acupuncture, compared to an over 5% decrease among those who did not. They found vets with only TBI and both TBI and PTSD both reported benefits after acupuncture.

Though the clinical trial was small, and while acupuncture’s status and basis in the scientific community are debated, the study suggests acupuncture treatments may help veterans looking for more natural, and non-medicated ways of improving sleep disturbances associated with their conditions. Perhaps more meaningfully, it helps raise awareness about the extent to which service-connected issues can alter the lives of military veterans, and shows there are many passionate advocates out there who want to find ways to better support them after their service ends.

Biren Law Group: A Firm with a Commitment to Veterans

Firm Founder Matthew B.F. Biren and our legal team proudly support the men and women who serve and have served our country. Our involvement with organizations like the MVAT Foundation is one way we work to actively support efforts which help veterans after their return to civilian lives.

The insight we’ve gained from programs like MVAT, spending time with active duty troops and veterans, touring military bases and facilities, and representing numerous military veterans over the years has helped us refine the ability to address unique issues veterans often face in personal injury cases they file over civilian accidents. This includes not only knowing how to provide the right support and help our veteran clients seek the right type of care and resources they need, but also the experienced representation to help them seek special damages when preventable injuries exacerbate pre-existing, service-connected issues like TBI and PTSD.

If you or someone you love are a current or former service member who has recently been injured in an accident caused by another’s negligence, our firm is available to help you learn more about your rights, options, and what your potential injury claim may look like. Contact us to request a free and confidential consultation.


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