Acupuncture was one of the first ancient therapies that considered the connection between mind and body to be inseparable. Internal causes for disease and “unwellness” were considered to be caused by prolonged imbalanced emotional states. Emotions such as anger, sadness, worry, over stimulation and, of course, fear affects the body physically as well as emotionally. Each emotion was connected with a specific organ in the body. So while conventional medicine considers the brain to be the source of all emotion, Chinese medicine sees emotions as arising from and contained in specific organs. So, for instance, fear is connected to the kidneys (our understanding of the adrenal glands and the fight or flight response). Prolonged stress affects the liver organ, which is associated with the part of the nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system, also involved in dealing with perceived stress . Imbalances of emotions would then cause physical symptoms as well as emotional ones.
Modern day stresses (the more is better approach) has battered mental and emotional health. The work hard and play hard lifestyle exacts a price. Do you feel exhausted? Do you overthink things? Worry about every detail of life? There never seems to be time to just relax and unwind without turning on the TV or seeking some social event. This lifestyle causes the mind and body to become tied up inside, creating anxiety and depression.
How Acupuncture Can Help Treat Anxiety
Acupuncture can help you calm your moods and center yourself. Acupuncture promotes deep relaxation and rest. Acupuncture treatments help create a deep state of relaxation during the treatment which allows for true rest and healing of both mind and body. Acupuncture also triggers the release of serotonin (5-HT) and other chemicals in the brain more efficiently, resulting in better treatment outcomes.
Studies Show Acupuncture Helpful in Treating Anxiety
Auricular Acupuncture Effective in Treating Anxiety
A metaanalysis carried out in 2007, by Pilkington, Kirkwood and their associates, showed that using acupuncture for anxiety can be effective, especially in the treatment of preoperative anxiety. Their conclusion was that auricular (ear) acupuncture is more effective than acupuncture at sham (random) points and may be as effective as a drug therapy. The ears connect to all the nerves coming out of your brain stem. Those nerves are called the cranial nerves. Therefore, ear points can stimulate certain areas in the body. The ears have certain points in which stimulation may relieve anxiety symptoms far better than the stimulation of random ear points, which is something that is done in sham acupuncture.
Acupuncture Can Be An Effective Treatment for Chronic Anxiety Disorders
This study, conducted by Wang and Kain in 2001, showed that patients in the relaxation group, who received acupuncture treatment for anxiety at relaxation points in the ear, fared better than those in the sham points. Here we are talking about perfectly healthy volunteers whose everyday level of anxiety was significantly reduced by pressing needles against some ear acupuncture points but not other ear points used in the study.
Anesth Analg. 2001 Feb;92(2):548-53. Auricular acupuncture: a potential treatment for anxiety.Wang SM, Kain ZN.
Testing the effects of acupuncture on specific anxiety situations is what researchers have been investigating. Here are some of those findings summarized below:
Acupuncture has been tested for and had a good effect in controlling the symptoms of anxiety and depression caused by premenstrual disorder . Acupunct Med 2013;31:358-363 doi:10.1136/acupmed-2013-010394) http://aim.bmj.com/content/31/4/358.abstract
Effects of electroacupuncture on stress-related symptoms in medical students: a randomised placebo-controlled study (Acupunct Med doi:10.1136/acupmed-2013-010408) 82 students were divided into groups. Those treated with electrical acupuncture with acupuncture points on the face and the limbs saw significant improvement on specific questionnaires including sleep quality as measured by the MSQ (Mini-sleep Questionairre). Other questionairres showed improvement in the BDI (Beck Depression and Anxiety Inventories), and the cynicism and academic efficacy (AE) dimensions of the (MBI-SS) Maslach Burnout Inventory-Student Survey . A significant improvement was also obtained by sham TENS compared with the control group confirmed the presence of a placebo effect resulting from the treatment ritual. http://aim.bmj.com/content/early/2013/10/10/acupmed-2013-010408.abstract
Effect of acupuncture on symptoms of anxiety in women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: a prospective randomised controlled study. This study indicated that acupuncture can reduce anxiety symptoms in the reduction of psychological parameters of women undergoing IVF. (Acupuncture in Medicine 2012;30:2 85-88z) http://aim.bmj.com/content/30/2/85.abstract
What You Need to Know About Acupuncture for Anxiety Before Starting
Acupuncture has no side effects like anti-anxiety medications. Since no medication is injected through the needles, it has no adverse side effects and can be used concurrently with medications.
Give the process an honest effort, and at least several treatments before you decide if it helps or not. Be realistic!
If you are on medication, don’t expect to flush your pills down the toilet after your first visit. Rapidly going off of your medications is a recipe for bad side effects. If you are on medication, make no changes without speaking to your psychiatrist. Some may be able to reduce the level of medication, while others can use the acupuncture to get added benefits to fill the “gap” that medications may not provide. We work with your case not against it. It is recommended that you should work closely with your mental health professional to monitor and dispense the medication accordingly.
Find the right acupuncturist for you! Acupuncture is more than just needles. You need to be able to relate to the acupuncturist as a person.
Below find some of the acupuncture points that can be used in the treatment of anxiety.
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