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Massage Today
January, 2001, Vol. 01, Issue 01

The Power of Touch: Helping Vietnam Veterans

Promising Studies on Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

By Editorial Staff

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after exposure to any frightening or threatening event involving potential or actual physical harm.

Symptoms of this often-debilitating condition include flashbacks, nightmares, sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, irritability and sudden outbursts of anger.

Military troops, particularly those with combat experience, seem to be at high risk for PTSD. It's been estimated that nearly one million Vietnam veterans developed PTSD. Tens of thousands of veterans with PTSD receive treatment from the U.S. Veterans' Administration (VA) for PTSD. It's been estimated that nearly one million Vietnam veterans developed PTSD. Tens of thousands of veterans with PTSD receive treatment from the VA in the form of medication and/or talk therapy, but with limited results. Many others continue to live without treatment for their condition.

A program sponsored by the renowned Upledger Foundation in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, may provide a glimpse into the effective treatment of PTSD. The program's protocol, co-designed with the West Palm Beach Veterans' Administration medical center, sought to "present a statistically sound representation of how CranioSacral Therapy and SomatoEmotional Release help ease the often devastating symptoms of PTSD in Vietnam veterans."

The "Vietnam Veteran Intensive Treatment Program," as it was called, initially involved 24 veterans recruited for 10-day intensive programs; 22 patients completed the program. Diagnostic and assessment tests, administered on the first and last day of the program, served to confirm prior diagnosis of PTSD and to assess the extent of changes following treatment.

Graph showing results. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Craniosacral system evaluations at pre and post-treatment were used to assess physical improvement in each patient. Changes in psychological distress were quantified using 13 symptom variables:

  • somatization;
  • obsessive-compulsive behavior;
  • depression;
  • hostility;
  • paranoid ideation;
  • psychoticism;
  • global severity;
  • distress index;
  • interpersonal sensitivity;
  • anxiety;
  • phobic anxiety;
  • hopelessness; and
  • overall symptom score.

Graph showing results. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark CranioSacral Therapy and SomatoEmotional Release followed established Upledger principles. CranioSacral Therapy involved using a soft touch generally no greater than five grams-about the weight of a nickel-to test and release restrictions in the craniosacral system (the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord) to improve the functioning of the central nervous system.

SomatoEmotional Release, an expansion on the principles of CranioSacral Therapy, involved the integration of manual techniques with verbal processing skills and other creative methods. The goal was to help the vets physically identify and expel energy cysts (the imprint in the body of physical forces from accidents, injury and emotional shock) and resolve negative emotional experiences.

Results (see graphs) provide evidence of dramatic improvements with respect to all 13 variables following treatment:

Overall, statistically significant improvements were noted in all of the variables, suggesting that results were a direct consequence of the treatments delivered. One of the most impressive findings demonstrated a shift in subjects' attitudes from hopelessness to optimism. Further reports will analyze 30 and 60-day and six-month post-treatment scores.

Commenting on the results, program founder Dr. John Upledger said: "We ease the vets into positions that help bring back experiences that have been buried. Once the patient begins to get symbolic images, we can use dialogue to slowly convert the image into something like the exact experience." According to Dr. Upledger, once the patient relives a buried experience under these therapeutic circumstances, it's often released from the tissues - and gone for good.

 

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