Dealing With Trauma Through Acupuncture | Paddington Clinic, Acupuncture Brisbane & Natural TherapiesPaddington Clinic

Dealing With Trauma Through Acupuncture

2 Mar, 2018 - Acupuncture, Blog

by Joel Delaney, Acupuncturist.

I see a lot of people for varying types of mental health conditions; anxiety, depression, trauma, chronic stress, etc, with varying degrees of severity but all share one common theme. They have lost the ability for the body to help itself. We often think of mental health as something that only effects the mind however any problem in a person needs to be addressed as a whole.

Have you noticed that stress is a lot worse when you’re tired? Would it make sense then that if your body had an abundance of energy your ability to cope with stress would be better?

Trauma is an overwhelming and seemingly unbearable life experience. These experiences can be categorized as “hard traumas” or “soft traumas”. Hard traumas are usually more obvious, things like a car accident or marriage break down. Soft traumas can be an accumulation of stress that gets to a point where the body can no longer cope. For example, chronic stress or prolonged psychological abuse.

The body addresses a crisis first, then anything else second (i.e. immune, reproduction, digestion, etc). Stopping a crisis is all about survival, whether that is perceived or real. Sometimes the mental health issue is that crisis, or it can be due to a crisis, for example the system / body doesn’t have enough to cope with the amount of environmental stimulation, therefore depression helps to shut things down so you retreat to safety and have space.

The general pattern becomes going from crisis mode to just getting by, back to crisis mode. This is very hard work for the body, so your energy gets low and the “crisis’s” get worse.

Then you start to notice that the things you used to use to help get you out of the anxiety/depression/stress don’t seem to work as well any more. Then all the aspects of the body that aren’t considered important for saving life start to get worse (i.e. digestion, sleep, reproductive / period, immune). Your energy gets low and your symptoms get more frequent, intense and last longer. You can also experience flushing, palpitations, tight upper back, change in breathing and headaches as your energy and blood move more and more to your head to help you crisis manage what is going on.

What I observe in clinic is that once these underlying issues start to be addressed, the body can start to come out of the crisis and begin to heal.

People often come to the clinic saying things like, “I’ve done years of talk therapy, I have the tools, I know what I’m doing wrong but I’m still depressed / anxious / stressed”. In these cases the mind has been addressed but the body hasn’t. When you start including the body in the process it can then support the mind, taking advantage of what you have already started with talk therapy and get change.

In acupuncture, a “trauma pattern” is a great example of crisis and stress being stuck in the body. It is a very specific pattern that relates to a bone in the head being held overly tight by the jaw muscles. This tells the body it is a danger and it is how we test for a trauma pattern in each person. 

Usually, once an immediate threat or crisis has gone, the body returns to normal, however this mechanism can stay locked as we replay the event/s over in our mind or don’t have appropriate skill to “wash” the stress (generally as humans we have lost this skill). Things you can notice when the sphenoid bone in the head is locked may include:

  • One sided blocked ear / chronic sinus issues which started around the time of trauma
  • Increase sensitivity to stress and a decrease ability to unwind
  • Higher levels of anxiety that you find harder to get under control
  • A condition that came on around the time of the trauma and you can’t seem to resolve or
  • A condition that seems to get better, then plateaus, or just comes back even with constant effort.
  • Foggy mind.
  • Jaw pain.

When the sphenoid bone is locked it puts the body in a constant state of primal readiness or fight / flight mode.  In this “crisis” state other aspects of your body can start to shut down in an effort to give as much energy to keeping you alive. Things that are considered optional in a state of crisis:

  • Digestion
  • Immune system
  • Reproductive system
  • Nourish and thriving
  • Repair
  • Creative thought.

(Which means all these things get suppressed and impaired.)

There is a specific acupuncture treatment that can support the unlocking of this trauma pattern mechanism, and acupuncture in general can often be the missing link between the body and the mind to move forward from old trauma and support you in the next stage of your healing. 


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