Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a stress and trauma-related disorder first recognized in soldiers returning from war. Initially called shell shock, PTSD became an official diagnosis in 1980 when the
American Psychiatric Association (APA) entered it into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM). (1)
Today, as many as six out of every 100 Americans will have PTSD throughout their lifetime. (2) Fortunately, PTSD is treatable, and many people can deal with and move on from it. However, despite the development of successful treatments for those suffering from PTSD, some people continue to deal with the symptoms of more complex PTSD that traditional therapies are not always successful in addressing.
In recent years, alternative therapies for PTSD have been used to help complement and support patients as they work through their trauma. And while these alternative therapies have been successful, one, in particular, is showing great promise in helping those suffering.
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a diagnosis given to some people after they have endured, witnessed, or heard of a traumatizing event or serious of events. Living through trauma is something we (as humans) have done for a long time, yet it seems that only some people develop PTSD after their trauma.
PTSD is often described as a repetitive reliving or recounting of a traumatic event and a dysfunctional belief system resulting from a traumatic event. (3) We will get into some of the symptoms of PTSD in a bit.
What causes PTSD?
PTSD often develops following a traumatic event or a situation in which a person endures prolonged exposure to abuse or neglect or a brief yet traumatic series of events. The trauma, whether sudden or ongoing- leads the person to question their sense of safety and can lead to feelings of impending doom at every turn. As highlighted above, trauma can be something the person experienced directly, witnessed, or heard of through accounts from others that experienced or witnessed it.
Some examples of traumatic incidents that can lead to PTSD include: (3)
- Sexual assault
- Abuse or neglect
- Natural disasters
- Diagnosis of life-threatening illness (i.e., terminal cancer)
- Accidents (i.e., auto, work)
- Traumatic birth experiences
- Witnessing violence or death
- Severe injury
Risk factors for PTSD
While anyone can develop PTSD following a traumatic experience, some risk factors place an individual at higher risk for developing PTSD. These risk factors include a person having anxiety or depression before the traumatic event, having little or no support following a stressful situation, and experiencing additional trauma following a traumatic event from other interconnected circumstances. (3)
Besides these known risk factors, brain structure and hormones seem to play a factor in the formation of
In people dealing with PTSD, images of the brain reveal that the hippocampus- a part of the brain responsible for regulating our emotional response- is smaller. While it is unclear if the hippocampus is smaller due to trauma or unrelated circumstances, this finding is significant as researchers feel hippocampus size plays into people with PTSD’s ability to process emotions following a stressful situation. (3).
Moreover, another physiologic finding in patients with PTSD is elevated stress hormone levels even after the traumatic event(s) have ended, which doctors believe is responsible, at least partially, for the ongoing remembering and re-experiencing of the initial stressor that patients with PTSD endure (3)
Resiliency factors for PTSD
Conversely, there are also resiliency factors for PTSD. And while this doesn’t suggest that people who do have PTSD are not resilient, there do seem to be some life circumstances that help in preventing the development of PTSD. These include (3)
- Strong family and friend support before and during the traumatic experience
- Having or learning appropriate coping skills to handle the stress induced by the traumatic event
- Having a positive view of the actions taken during the trauma.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
On average, symptoms of PTSD begin to emerge within three months of experiencing trauma; however, some people can go years before starting to experience symptoms.
Symptoms of PTSD are often grouped into four categories including (4)
- Intrusive thoughts
Intrusive thoughts can include unwanted memories or flashbacks of the trauma. PTSD symptoms can also be nightmares or emotional distress when encountering situations that are a reminder of the trauma.
This set of symptoms includes avoiding conversations about traumatic events or avoiding people or places associated with trauma.
- Adverse changes in thinking and mood
These changes can include having negative thoughts and feeling hopeless or powerless, even in non-threatening situations. No longer feeling excited about things you were once interested in and no longer able to feel happy or have positive emotions.
- Physical and emotional reaction changes
These symptoms include exhibiting self-destructible behavior, sleep disturbances, startling easily, and trouble concentrating.
What are the traditional treatments for PTSD?
One of the most comprehensive traditional treatment combinations to date for PTSD is CBT, or Cognitive-Behavorial Therapy, and medications. (1) Beyond that, there are other treatment options, such as group therapy, which is a successful treatment for people who only have mild symptoms of PTSD. (1)
However, while there has been much success in treating PTSD using these traditional means of treatment, there are also barriers to relief. First, while we’ve come a long way in banishing the stigma surrounding mental health issues, much work is still needed. And the fear of receiving an official diagnosis is enough to keep a good number of people from even seeking care in the first place.
Second, undergoing any form of treatment for mental health can be a painful and grueling process, which requires some mental fortitude. So, the person must be ready and willing to do this. Lastly, they must be willing to take medications that have potential side effects that can be, at times- unpleasant. (5)
So, like many other medical treatments- the traditional means of treatment for PTSD are not always appropriate or compatible with those suffering from it.
What are the alternative therapies for PTSD?
There are several complementary and alternative therapies for PTSD. Some of these include acupuncture, journaling, meditation or hypnotherapy, attending support group meetings, yoga, and other lifestyle changes. (3,6)
While these alternative therapies are beneficial as they promote relaxation and stress reduction, one alternative treatment is making waves in the field of psychiatry and changing the lives of many people who are suffering from the symptoms of PTSD.
Stellate Ganglion Block Treatment for PTSD
A Brief History
In 2008, Dr. Eugene Lipov wrote a case study after discovering the promise that stellate ganglion block
(SGB) has in treating patients experiencing PTSD. (5)
SGB was first documented in medicine in 1926 and again in the 1940s and 1950s when researchers tested it for its effectiveness in treating depression. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that two separate studies showed SGB, or similar procedures, to be effective in addressing trauma. These findings prompted Dr. Lipov and others to research SGB as an ongoing treatment for PTSD. (5)
What is a Stellate Ganglion Block Treatment?
The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for initiating the “fight or flight” response. A group of nerves in the neck called the stellate ganglion are connected to the amygdala and, therefore, also involved in this fight or flight response. In patients with PTSD, the amygdala continues to operate in hyperdrive even though the stimulus (or trauma) is no longer present.
SGB injections us an anesthetic (numbing) medication commonly used for women during childbirth, a physician injects this medication into the stellate ganglion nerves to relax the nerves and reverse this hyperdrive response. (5)
Benefits of a PTSD shot in Neck
Many symptoms commonly associated with PTSD are synonymous with a hyperarousal state or being stuck in that “fight or flight” mode. As highlighted above, these symptoms can include flashbacks or nightmares, withdrawal or avoidance, irritability, changes in sleep patterns, and self-destructive behaviors.
SGB Injection for PTSD Near Me
If you live in Maryland, Pennsylvania, or the Virginia area and want to learn more about a ganglion injection for PTSD, we’re here to help.
Our doctors, Dr. Jyothi Rao-Mahadevia and Dr. Sudhir Rao, are a brother and sister team with a combined 40 years of experience in the medical field. In 2022, the two opened their fifth practice- SGB Docs, to help serve their patients who are experiencing the ongoing effects of pain, long-haul Covid, and trauma.
As board-certified physicians, both Dr. Rao-Mahadevia and Dr. Rao are dedicated to providing the highest level of care and are ready to help you get on the road to recovery.
To learn more about stellate ganglion blocks and our doctors, call us at 301.703.5067.
- PTSD History and Overview – PTSD: National Center for PTSD (va.gov)
- How Common is PTSD in Adults? – PTSD: National Center for PTSD (va.gov)
- PTSD Causes The Science of Trauma and How to Treat It (healthline.com)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic
- Stella – A New Model For Care.pdf (stellacenter.com)
- Complementary and Integrative Health (CIH) for PTSD – PTSD: National Center for PTSD (va.gov)