Former marine Rickie Botwright from Gorleston praises acupuncture to treat PTSD as study is launched by health watchdog Healthwatch Norfolk with charity Stand Easy

Rickie Botwright. Photo: Nick Butcher

Rickie Botwright. Photo: Nick Butcher - Credit: EDP pics � 2007

An ancient Chinese practice associated with the treatment of back pain and headaches changed the life of a former marine from Gorleston.

Rickie Botwright. Photo: Nick Butcher

Rickie Botwright. Photo: Nick Butcher - Credit: EDP pics � 2007

And the treatment's success has led to Healthwatch Norfolk, the consumer champion for health and social care, launching a new study which seeks to demonstrate the use of acupuncture for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Across the world the practice is used for a range of therapeutic and preventative purposes.

And in the United States, the military use acupuncture to relieve pain and stress for troops both on and off the battlefield.

Naji Malak, co-founder of Norwich based charity Stand Easy, uses these same techniques to treat local veterans experiencing PTSD.

Naji Malak. Photo: Steve Adams

Naji Malak. Photo: Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

And he has seen the positive effect it can have on the ex-service men and women his organisation supports.

Mr Malak said: 'Having worked with civilians and military personnel all over the world, I firmly believe in acupuncture as an effective treatment for PTSD and the change it can bring out in people can be remarkable.

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'The treatment does not require patients to talk about their thoughts and feelings and so it might be particularly useful for veterans who have not found talking therapies for PTSD to be very helpful.'

Former marine and Norfolk Police Detective Inspector Rickie Botwright was diagnosed with PTSD around seven years ago.

He said: 'Looking back, it was painfully obvious that I needed help.

'I'd undergone some counselling sessions a while back but to be honest they were not of any benefit to me at all.

'[But] I remember that even after the first session with Stand Easy there was a buzz.

'I had a spring in my step.

'I wasn't sure what had just happened, and in a way I'm still not, but I just felt more confident.

'My energy levels had lifted, I was thinking more clearly, physically I felt good and I was bumping into people who were saying, 'My God, you look well'.'

Another veteran the treatment helped was Rhys Thurtell, from Spixworth.

Mr Thurtell, 28, served in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, with the 1st Royal Anglian Regiment. He developed PTSD after a fellow serviceman lost both of his legs and Mr Thurtell helped get him out of the situation.

'The acupuncture has helped me far more than anything else has,' said Mr Thurtell.

'I had lots of talking therapy and even turned to drink and drugs. But I'm a changed man, it's changed my life.'

Mr Thurtell said he only contacted Stand Easy to appease his parents, but he would now recommend the charity to anyone.

'For me, I had this massive anger, and the acupuncture releases so much tension. It makes you focus your mind.'

Healthwatch Norfolk's study, funded by the British Acupuncture Council, will now measure the effectiveness of the treatment to identify whether it should become more widely available for veterans across the UK.

The study is open to all Norfolk-based veterans of the British Armed Forces who have been diagnosed with PTSD or who feel in a constant state of trauma. Participants will receive all acupuncture sessions free of charge and will need to answer some simple questions about their experience.

Edward Fraser, leading the study at Healthwatch, added: 'We know that a small but significant minority of our local veterans are struggling with PTSD on a daily basis and research suggests that current treatments are less effective for veterans than for civilians. We have already received some very positive feedback about the acupuncture service provided by Stand Easy and we are excited to be conducting this study, which we believe will gather some robust evidence with the potential to help improve treatments for veterans.'

• To get involved, contact Stand Easy on or 01603 666546.

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