'24 Hearts for 24 Floors', near Grenfell Tower, West London (picture: Yvonne Abel)
Increasingly in recent years our needles have been used to help citizens cope in the aftermath of disasters and in ongoing traumatic situations, for example in New York post-9/11, in the wake of the 2011 hurricane in Teresópolis, Brazil, and also in Myanmar and Gaza. Here in the UK, acupuncture can be used to treat members of the armed forces suffering from PTSD, and Battlefield Acupuncture is widely taught and used by the US military.
Last week, I was one of a group of acupuncturists putting treatment into action as part of the Emergency Acupuncture project set up following the Grenfell Tower fire.
How does it work? In crisis acupuncture, the focus is on keeping it simple. An ear point protocol is used for its speed, simplicity and efficacy. In some cases, only a single needle in each ear can induce a tangible grounding effect, allowing the patient to experience some relief from their severe feelings of shock, fear and grief.
The aim is to reduce stress, anxiety and panic and to improve sleep. Treatments take place quickly (around 15 minutes), with minimal talking and in a group setting. The effects are fast and clear. Within minutes of having the needles inserted, I saw greatly traumatised people visibly relax, some almost fall asleep, and others cry for the first time since the tragedy.
Acupuncture is powerful, and when it’s used in situations of intense trauma, such as that suffered by the community I was privileged to be with last week, the effects can be priceless.