Finding effective treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans has been an important goal among many medical professionals, and results of a new study may provide a breakthrough in the ongoing effort. Scientists found that complementing traditional treatment with alternative methods such as healing touch and guided imagery can significantly reduce soldiers' PTSD symptoms.

The study, published in the recent issue of Military Medicine, was led by researchers from Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine who were focused on active duty troops returning between 2008 and 2010. The troops were split into two groups, one of which received standard PTSD treatment while the other received healing touch and guided imagery treatment as well. The supplemental methods are aimed at relaxation and boosting trust and self-esteem.

Researchers noticed significant improvement in PTSD symptoms after just six sessions of the complementary treatment. In fact, they note that the decrease in symptoms, such as flashbacks, insomnia and emotional numbness, was more than just a slight percentage change.

"Scores for PTSD symptoms decreased substantially, about 14 points and below the clinical cutoffs for PTSD," said researcher Dr. Mimi Guarneri. "This indicates that the intervention was not just statistically significant, but actually decreased symptoms below the threshold for PTSD diagnosis. It made a large difference in reducing PTSD symptoms."

Most experts estimate that PTSD affects about 20 percent of all veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the conditions has garnered a considerable amount of attention in recent years. Additionally, as thousands of troops prepare to separate from service in the coming years, addressing the condition will become even more important.

The growing focus on PTSD is highlighted by the fact that medical professionals recommend annual screening for all troops returning stateside from combat. The suggestion came earlier this year from The Institute of Medicine. Aside from helping provide troops who need it with the necessary treatment, doctors hope the screenings could provide them with better info on what treatments work best, according to The Associated Press.

PTSD has been especially prevalent in recent years thanks to the widespread use of improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, experts estimate that IEDs are responsible for about 66 percent of coalition casualties in Afghanistan from 2001 to the present.