Warriors of War Get Help with PTSD in CAM Therapies

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CAM Therapies are now being incorporated into military health for veterans and active duty personnel

Complementary/Alternative Medicine (CAM)

A non-main stream practice such as vitamins and supplements used together with conventional medicine is referred to as complementary

A non-mainstream practice such as acupuncture is used in place of conventional medicine is referred to as alternative


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after you have been through a trauma described as a shocking and dangerous event that you witness or are part of. PTSD can happen to anyone.

When you’re in the military you can see combat, you could have been on a mission in which exposed you to shocking and life-threatening experiences which can lead to PTSD.

The number of Veterans with PTSD varies by service era:

Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) Around 11-20 out of 100 veterans who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year
Gulf War (Desert Storm) Around 12 out of every 100 Gulf War veterans has PTSD in a given year.

Vietnam War: Around 15 out of 100 veterans had been diagnosed with PTSD at the time of The National Vietnam Readjustment study. Estimates indicate around 30 out of 100 of Vietnam veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.

Today CAM therapies are widely offered in VA specialized PTSD treatment programs. Some of the CAM therapies that have been shown to treat PTSD are as follows;


Exercise is an integral part of a comprehensive treatment plan for PTSD. Low-moderate intensity can elevate mood and reduce anxiety. Low-intensity aerobic exercise has been shown to positively impact symptoms of depression and PTSD. Exercise also addresses many physical and mental health problems linked to chronic PTSD.


A report this year published in Military Medicine showed transcendental meditation allowed some active duty service members with PTSD reduce or eliminate their psychotropic medication and control their often disabling symptoms.

A 2006 study of Vietnam War veterans with PTSD found that three months after doing transcendental meditation, symptoms such as startle response, alcohol use and anxiety had decreased and showed a positive on problems associated with PTSD such as depression and substance abuse.


A 2015 paper concluded adaptogen-nervine base formula (unique classes of herbs) could be created that are individualized to meet the person’s needs. The herbs are:
Eleutherococcus senticosus, Licorice or Wild Yam, Schisandra chinensis, Oat Tops, Holy Basil and Rhodiola as a anti-anxiety, anti-depressant and protective, specifically effective for stagnant depression, including PTSD


Research suggests spirituality could affect critical issues for those with PTSD such as; isolation and social withdrawal, guilt and shame, anger and irritability, hypervigilance, anxiety and Physiological arousal, loss of interest in activities.


A review found acupuncture to be effective for PTSD based on high quality randomized control trials Acupuncture showed improved of symptoms up to three months after treatment. A case series study suggested possible effectiveness of acupuncture in emergency conditions involving PTSD and emotional trauma.


Hypnotherapy is an evidence-based treatment that effectively treats symptoms and the underlying causes of PTSD, There are different forms of hypnotherapy a hypnotherapist can use but most hypnotherapists will use cognitive hypnotherapy which allows hypnotherapists to work with the unconscious mind so the negative beliefs due to PTSD can be alleviated.


A study published in Journal of Traumatic Stress found yoga for Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans had reduced PTSD symptoms , anxiety and respiration rate. Sudarshan Kriya yoga had the strongest effect on hyper-arousal and re-experiencing symptoms, and consistent with improvements in hyper arousal symptoms, also on generalized anxiety and arousal symptoms. The study found yoga to be a viable alternative or adjunct intervention for addressing PTSD and suicide in veterans.

Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal assisted therapy surrounds the use of animals usually dogs or horses for therapeutic services for a range of psychological disorders. A study appearing in the Journal Trauma Stress found equine-assisted therapy to be an effective treatment for symptoms of PTSD.

Veterans who have service dogs have less severe symptoms of PTSD and depression. They also have improved relationships and less substance abuse.

Music Therapy

A piolet study supported by VA HSR&D funding included veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD symptoms participated in a six week intervention conducted with assistance from the Guitars for Vets chapter at the Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI. Veterans had an hour each week of guitar training and weekly group instruction sessions. The results showed a positive effect in relieving PTSD symptoms. In addition music therapy was effective in reducing symptoms of depression and improving quality of life. Veterans in the study received a guitar, sheet music and other supplies that they kept after the study.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi has been found to be a feasible and safe for veterans with PTSD symptoms. Tai Chi is helpful to manage distressing symptoms (ie, intrusive thoughts, concentration difficulties, physiological arousal). Tai Chi encourages focus on the present moment and awareness of body positions and sensations. It also addresses pain and improves function.

Art Therapy

Art therapy helps veterans reduce anxiety and mood disorders common with PTSD. It reduces behavior that interferes with emotional and cognitive functioning. It helps veterans to communicate and resolve traumatic memories, reduces stress and trauma-related conditions. Veterans who have participated in art therapy have reported it helps them understand and cope with symptoms, enhances their ability and strength to re-enter society and improves outlook on life.

Resources for Veterans

These are some of the resources that are available:
National Center for PTSD
Gifts from Within – Information for Survivors and Caregivers
Operation We are Here
PTSD Alliance
Wounded Warrior Project


University of New Mexico
Barnes, V. A., Rigg, J. L., & Williams, J. J. (2013). Clinical case series: Treatment of PTSD with transcendental meditation in active duty military personnel. Military Medicine, 178(7), e836–e840. doi:10.7205/milmed-d-12-00426
Hankey, A. (2007). CAM and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 4(1), 131–132. http://doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nel041
Ernsberger MM (2015) Drug-Free Alternatives for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Med Aromat Plants S2: 001. doi:10.4172/2167-0412.S2-001
US Department of Veteran Affairs National Center for PTSD
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 615857, 12 pages http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/615857
Seppälä, E. M., Nitschke, J. B., Tudorascu, D. L., Hayes, A., Goldstein, M. R., Nguyen, D. T. H., … Davidson, R. J. (2014). Breathing-based meditation decreases Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in U.S. Military veterans: A Randomized controlled longitudinal study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 27(4), 397–405. doi:10.1002/jts.21936
Research, P., & staff, P. (2015, August 27). Research roundup: Animal-assisted therapy. Retrieved December 28, 2016, from http://www.apapracticecentral.org/update/2015/08-27/animal-assisted-therapy.aspx
Yoo, S. (2014, December 10). Study: Service dogs ease PTSD symptoms for vets. . Retrieved from http://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/health/2014/12/09/study-service-dogs-ease-ptsd-symptoms-vets/20164101/
Niles, B. L., Mori, D. L., Polizzi, C. P., Kaiser, A. P., & Ledoux, A. M. (2016). Feasibility, qualitative findings and satisfaction of a brief Tai Chi mind–body programme for veterans with post-traumatic stress symptoms. BMJ Open, 6(11), 12464. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-012464


Active Military, Alternative Medicine, Cam, Complementary, Mental Health, Ptsd, Stress Disorder, Symptoms, Veterans

Meet the author

author avatar authordeb
Author of the Love and Laughter series
Alternative Medicine Practitioner
Freelance Health Write
Works with Media companies for interviews and articles such as Howie Mandel for Afib,

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