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Emotional Trauma - How Acupuncture can support the healing process

Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes the seven emotions as cause of disease, when they are not regulated and processed. An emotional trauma activates strong emotions and can cause imbalance in the body. Every time the person relives the trauma memory , the disharmony in the channels and organs worsens.

Emotional Trauma in the body

At some point in life everyone of us experiences emotional trauma. It can happen in the utero (during pregnancy - if the mother experiences high stress while pregnant), at birth, in childhood, in adolescence or adulthood. Emotional trauma can be caused by emotional or physical assault, a negative health diagnosis, loosing a loved one, a car accident, divorce, job loss and other.

Trauma can also be inherited from our parents or grandparents.

Each person experiences and interprets situations differently - what can be traumatic for one person may not be so for another. Trauma impacts each person in a unique way based on their constitution and how they learned to regulate their emotions. If not processed and released emotional trauma can have a global effect on the body causing emotional and physical issues.

Unresolved trauma can cause chronic pain disorders, digestive disorders, cardiological conditions, sleep disturbance, chronic anxiety and more. We humans have the "disadvantage" of reliving stressful situation by thinking about them. When we think about a stressful situation we trigger our body in releasing stress hormones in our body like we did when we were in that situation, and we trigger that responds every time we do it. So every time we relieving that situation we are flooding our body with stress hormones.

Harmonizing the brain with Acupuncture

Trauma affects the communication between the brainstem, the limbic system ("emotional brain") and the pre-frontal cortex ("rational brain", body awareness, pain sensation).

The pre-frontal cortex corresponds to the upper Dantian in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). There are are several acupuncture points that can stimulate the upper dantian, for example Yin Tang, Du 20, Du 24 and Du 19, which all are located on the head/front of head. They all activate the upper Dantian, improve the function of the pre-frontal cortex, which can help to bring the traumatized person back to the present moment and out of the trauma memory.

The limbic system is the emotional center of the body and regulates the "fight-or-flight-or-freeze" responds in the body. Its corresponds to the middle Dantian - which relates in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to the heart channel (and organ). The Heart in TCM houses the spirit and the mind. When we calm the heart we calm the limbic system. Acupuncture points on the heart channel like HT 7, HT 8 (wrist, hand) and on the Pericardium channel PC 6 (wrist) can calm the mind. Ren 17, the Front mu point of the Pericardium, is also a very helpful point.

The pericardium is the sac around our heart, which shields the heart from infection and provides lubrication for the heart. When a person is a stressful situation the pericardium sends out electromagnetic signals, which alternates the flow of some channels in the body to respond to the stressful situation. By needling Ren 17 (on the chest) we can calm the pericardium down and with that also the mind.

When we calm the down the pericardium we calm down the heart. Heart and brain are constantly exchanging information with each other. The interesting part about this is that from all the information that is exchanged between the heart and the brain, the heart sends more information to the brain and not the other way around. Just by thinking we cannot reduce our heart beat but by calming our heart beat (due to acupuncture, breathing techniques, ...) we can calm our mind.

Acupuncture is though no stand alone treatment for trauma/emotional trauma. Counseling, stress management, healthy diet and exercise are also very important for the healing process.

References used:

Treating Emotional Trauma with Chinese Medicine - CT Holman

Tracking the Dragon - DR, Janice Hadlock

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