"Healing touch" therapy combined with "guided imagery" led to a significant reductions in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms among active-duty military in a new study.
Healing touch is non-invasive treatment that involves eliciting the participant's own healing response through placing hands on or near the individual to reduce stress and decrease pain.
Guided imagery uses the imagination to reduce stress and decrease pain through visualization.
The study, published in the September issue of Military Medicine, included 123 returning active-duty Marines at Camp Pendleton, Calif. from July 2008 to August 2010 who were experiencing PTSD symptoms including re-experiencing of trauma via flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbness, insomnia, irritability, exaggerated startle response, or avoidance of people or places that remind them of the trauma.
Suicides, often influenced by PTSD, are at the highest rate in 11 years of war and suicides outpaced combat deaths through the first half of the year.
As of Sept. 11 there have been 39 Marines who committed suicide, compared to 32 reported by the Marine Corps in all of 2011.
In the new study, researched provided regular treatment for PTSD to 55 subjects while 68 of them received healing touch combined with guided imagery. Guided imagery was administered through a recorded CD simultaneously with healing touch and then independently by subjects at least once daily.
The researchers found that patients receiving the complementary medicine interventions showed significant improvement in quality of life, as well as reduced depression and cynicism, compared to soldiers receiving treatment as usual alone.
"Scores for PTSD symptoms decreased substantially, about 14 points and below the clinical cutoffs for PTSD," said lead researcher Dr. Guarneri. "This indicates that the intervention was not just statistically significant, but actually decreased symptoms below the threshold for PTSD diagnosis."
Healing touch is not widely accepted as a viable form of therapy within the medical community, but there aren't many options for suffering vets.
"The results of this study underscore the need to make effective, non-stigmatizing treatments for PTSD available to all our service members," Wayne B. Jonas, MD, president and chief executive officer of Samueli Institute, said in a press release.