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Landmark Study Highlights Promising PTSD Treatment

A military member in distress
Alex Pena
U.S. Air Force
A promising PTSD treatment could help military members who are struggling.

A clinical trial of active-duty military members showed for the first time that a known pain treatment can also be effectively used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

Stellate ganglion block, or SGB, is a treatment that anesthetizes a bundle of nerves in the neck with an injection. SGB has been used for decades to treat pain symptoms, but thislandmark study from RTI Internationaldemonstrates that the injections can also be used for those with PTSD. The eight-week trial showed a clinically significant reduction in symptoms, although it did not study why the treatment works.

 A graphic showing a woman's neck and a needle going in on the right side.
Credit Courtesy of Kristine Rae Olmsted
An image showing the bundle of nerves that SGB targets.

Kristine Rae Olmsted, a behavioral epidemiologist at RTI International and one of the study’s primary investigators, shares the details with host Frank Stasio. She covers the history of SGB, talks about the link between pain and PTSD and explores future avenues of study.

Note: This program originally aired January 29, 2020.

Amanda Magnus is the executive producer of Embodied, a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships and health. She has also worked on other WUNC shows including Tested and CREEP.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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