Engel CC1, Cordova EH, Benedek DM, Liu X, Gore KL, Goertz C, Freed MC, Crawford C, Jonas WB, Ursano RJ.
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1*Deployment Health Clinical Center, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center †Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (CSTS) ‡Department of Psychiatry, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD §Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research, Davenport, IA Samueli Institute, Alexandria, VA.
Initial posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) care is often delayed and many with PTSD go untreated. Acupuncture appears to be a safe, potentially nonstigmatizing treatment that reduces symptoms of anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, but little is known about its effect on PTSD.
Fifty-five service members meeting research diagnostic criteria for PTSD were randomized to usual PTSD care (UPC) plus eight 60-minute sessions of acupuncture conducted twice weekly or to UPC alone. Outcomes were assessed at baseline and 4, 8, and 12 weeks postrandomization. The primary study outcomes were difference in PTSD symptom improvement on the PTSD Checklist (PCL) and the Clinician-administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) from baseline to 12-week follow-up between the 2 treatment groups. Secondary outcomes were depression, pain severity, and mental and physical health functioning. Mixed model regression and t test analyses were applied to the data.
Mean improvement in PTSD severity was significantly greater among those receiving acupuncture than in those receiving UPC (PCLΔ=19.8±13.3 vs. 9.7±12.9, P<0.001; CAPSΔ=35.0±20.26 vs. 10.9±20.8, P<0.0001). Acupuncture was also associated with significantly greater improvements in depression, pain, and physical and mental health functioning. Pre-post effect-sizes for these outcomes were large and robust.
Acupuncture was effective for reducing PTSD symptoms. Limitations included small sample size and inability to parse specific treatment mechanisms. Larger multisite trials with longer follow-up, comparisons to standard PTSD treatments, and assessments of treatment acceptability are needed. Acupuncture is a novel therapeutic option that may help to improve population reach of PTSD treatment.

Psychosom Med. 2014 May;76(4):292-301. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000056.
Heart rate variability characteristics in a large group of active-duty marines and relationship to posttraumatic stress.
Minassian A1, Geyer MA, Baker DG, Nievergelt CM, O'Connor DT, Risbrough VB; Marine Resiliency Study Team.
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Heart rate variability (HRV), thought to reflect autonomic nervous system function, is lowered under conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The potential confounding effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and depression in the relationship between HRV and PTSD have not been elucidated in a large cohort of military service members. Here we describe HRV associations with stress disorder symptoms in a large study of Marines while accounting for well-known covariates of HRV and PTSD including TBI and depression.
Four battalions of male active-duty Marines (n = 2430) were assessed 1 to 2 months before a combat deployment. HRV was measured during a 5-minute rest. Depression and PTSD were assessed using the Beck Depression Inventory and Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale, respectively.
When adjusting for covariates, including TBI, regression analyses showed that lower levels of high-frequency HRV were associated with a diagnosis of PTSD (β = -0.20, p = .035). Depression and PTSD severity were correlated (r = 0.49, p < .001); however, participants with PTSD but relatively low depression scores exhibited reduced high frequency compared with controls (p = .012). Marines with deployment experience (n = 1254) had lower HRV than did those with no experience (p = .033).
This cross-sectional analysis of a large cohort supports associations between PTSD and reduced HRV when accounting for TBI and depression symptoms. Future postdeployment assessments will be used to determine whether predeployment HRV can predict vulnerability and resilience to the serious psychological and physiological consequences of combat exposure.
Randomized Effectiveness Trial of a Brief Course of Acupuncture for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.