When Shauna Springer told me that a simple shot in the neck could bring resolution of chronic post-traumatic stress symptoms, it sounded too good to be true. Current therapies help a lot of people, but many of those with chronic PTSD spend years treated with medications and therapy and still don’t get better. So how could a single shot make a difference?
People with chronic PTSD do the best they can to live their lives with their bodies on overdrive. Because they’ve experienced life-threatening or traumatic events, their whole nervous system has gotten locked into protecting them from danger. The world feels unsafe and their stress hormones run on high all the time.
Now mounting research evidence shows that innovative therapies can help those with post-traumatic stress. Even better, they help much faster than conventional treatments do.
One of these is a shot called the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB), and it works by an injection into the bundle of nerves that sends signals of fight or flight to the body. This calms things down fast for those with post-traumatic stress, and gives them a chance to heal. But SGB is not the only trauma therapy helping people quickly and without medication. New psychotherapies are getting results in 3-5 sessions.
PTSD happens when people experience something so frightening, their threat response floods the brain with stress hormones and the memory of the event is stored differently. Instead of feeling like a normal memory, trauma memories feel like they are still happening, right now in the present. At the same time, the brain stays in fight or flight mode, constantly feeling threatened even when the person is safe.
The current standard of care for PTSD is trauma focused exposure and desensitization therapy. This can come in different form, but they all require people to talk about their trauma and to re-experience it again and again. It works for a lot of people, but it doesn’t help everyone. In fact, some people find they get worse, and start avoiding therapy because re-experiencing their trauma is such a problem. Eventually, such survivors may find themselves on multiple medications, without feeling any better.
In fact, that’s what got actor and producer Michael Gier interested in post-traumatic stress. He was doing research for a fictional film about two veterans with PTSD, when he met Carl, a veteran medic. “I was shocked when he told me that he was on 16 different prescription drugs, down from 18,” Gier told me. “And what’s worse, he said they didn’t really help, that they were just a band-aid. I knew there had to be better options and that set me on a three-year journey across the country to find alternative treatments that would make a significant difference in the lives of people battling PTS.”