Acupuncturists Respond to Disaster in Haiti

Acupuncturists Without Borders is gearing up to send volunteers to Haiti to provide free treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to earthquake victims and people on the ground trying to help them.   Once the issues of food, water and shelter have been addressed in Haiti, volunteer acupuncturists will leave their private practices behind for several weeks to begin addressing the mental/emotional/spiritual crisis that is sure to linger long after victims’ physical needs have been met.  PTSD is defined by as “a common anxiety disorder that develops after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened…PTSD can occur in people of any age, including children and adolescents.”  Certainly, what Haitians have endured since last week’s devastating earthquake qualifies as “a terrifying event or ordeal” and while survival is at the top of the priority list, in order for the Haitian people to put their country back together, the issue of PTSD must be addressed.

AWB began as a group of acupuncturists responding to the victims of hurricane Katrina and has gone on to provide services to those affected by the 2008 Iowa floods and the 2009 California wildfires.  As an ongoing effort, AWB has been training acupuncturists to provide low or no cost treatment to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the Military Stress Recovery Project.  AWB uses a Community Acupuncture model to treat victims, medical and rescue personnel, treating patients in a group setting without the need for talking, in-depth examinations or feedback.  Primarily, AWB uses the five acupuncture points in the ear commonly used by professionals at Transitions Recovery Program.  These five points have been shown to have a profoundly calming effect on the central nervous system, triggering the body’s relaxation response and turning off the “fight or flight” response associated with PTSD.  In a disaster situation, this kind of treatment can be delivered to patients of all ages, wherever they happen to be:  outside or inside, sitting or lying down, on its own or while patients receive other medical attention.  These mini-acupuncture sessions are simple, cheap, do not interfere with other treatments, cause no harmful side effects and are highly effective.

All in all, AWB does great work!  If you’ve already donated to relief efforts for Haiti, the world thanks you.  If you feel moved as I do to also donate to AWB’s Haitian relief efforts, please visit their website at

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