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Anxiety and depression can take a major toll on your daily activities and life. Fortunately, you have various treatment options to consider. If you’re dealing with inconvenient side effects from antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications or are looking for alternative healing methods, acupuncture is a treatment option worth exploring.

Depression and anxiety are among the most common mental health disorders. Furthermore, many patients don’t respond to conventional interventions like psychotherapy and medications. For these reasons, individuals have started to seek alternative treatments for anxiety and depression symptoms, such as East Asian medicine practices.

One of the main tenets of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture involves placing fine needles into a patient’s skin, stimulating the nervous system via the fascial network to help treat pain and stress. Learn more about acupuncture for anxiety and depression in this article.

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Can Acupuncture Help With Anxiety?

Yes, acupuncture has been shown to alleviate anxiety by regulating the nervous system and restoring balance. In East Asian medicine, anxiety and depression are seen as warning signs that something bigger is occurring within the body. “Qi,” considered the source of life energy in TCM, is believed to be off balance. Acupuncture can help restore balance.

While acupuncture isn’t a cure-all treatment approach and may not be the right choice for every patient, many have found this therapy to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, thereby improving their overall well-being.

How Does It Work?

During an acupuncture session for anxiety and depression, a licensed acupuncturist inserts thin needles into specific points in the body. Each needle activates a sensory nerve, which prompts them to communicate with the brain. From there, the brain triggers a system response to release the body’s natural painkillers, endorphins, to travel through the body and help relieve pain or stress.

Acupuncture sessions typically take about 30 minutes. After the practitioner places the needles, they’ll stimulate them manually or using electrical currents, triggering neurochemical activity in the body. A skilled acupuncturist can locate the acupuncture points for depression and anxiety, working with you to help alleviate symptoms.

Some acupuncture sessions solely involve the insertion of needles through the skin. However, typically at least one additional treatment option will be used, such as: 

  • Manual massage (tui-na)
  • Heat therapy or moxibustion, where the practitioner warms ground mugwort leaves on specific points of the body
  • Gua Sha, or scraping the skin with a massage tool to help boost circulation
  • Cupping therapy, where a practitioner puts special suction cups on the skin to improve blood flow, promote relaxation and reduce inflammation and pain
  • Topical herbal liniments and ointments

Depending on your condition, needs, and practitioner’s recommendations, they may use these treatments alongside or instead of conventional needle acupuncture.

Why Acupuncture Can Be a Good Alternative Treatment Option

You may find acupuncture to be a game-changer if you’re dealing with depression or anxiety. Research suggests that just six weeks of acupuncture can help relieve symptoms in those with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), specifically by:

  • Balancing the autonomic nervous system, which regulates involuntary physiologic processes like blood pressure, heart rate and digestion.
  • Reducing stress hormones and controlling cortisol secretion.
  • Boosting serotonin levels.
  • Calming and relaxing the mind.

Acupuncture for Other Conditions and Ailments

Acupuncture can be an excellent treatment alternative to medications for those dealing with depression or anxiety. For centuries, this traditional Chinese practice has helped treat various pain and stress-related ailments. In addition to anxiety and depression, it can reduce pain and discomfort due to other medical conditions and illnesses like:

  • Nausea
  • Dental pain
  • Headaches
  • Labor pains
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Lower back pains
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Post-operative pain
  • Chemotherapy side effects
  • Tennis elbow or carpal tunnel syndrome

Acupuncture Benefits for Anxiety and Depression

If you’re still unsure about this treatment method, here are several benefits you could receive from acupuncture when seeking relief from depression or anxiety.

1. It Releases Endorphins

Endorphins are hormones that act as natural painkillers or stress relievers for the body. When an acupuncturist inserts needles into the skin’s surface, the body produces a localized response.

This response boosts circulation to that area of the body, triggering the release of endorphins. This endorphin release can help relieve tension headaches and migraines, improve blood flow and balance energy levels.

2. It Reduces Inflammation

Because acupuncture produces tiny “micro-wound”s” on the body, acupuncture stimulates an anti-inflammatory response from your immune system. Research suggests that chronic inflammation is associated with depression and fatigue.

3. It’s Relaxing

It’s natural to be wary about having needles in or around your head and face, but this process is painless for most people. Acupuncture needles are typically thinner than a human hair. Many patients find it incredibly therapeutic and relaxing. Some even fall asleep during sessions. Acupuncture can help relax your involuntary muscles, which is why it’s also common for pre-surgical procedures.

4. It Reduces Stress

Acupuncture can help relieve stress by calming the central nervous system. It can lower stress hormones and regulate mood to help reduce anxiety.

5. It Boosts Immunity

Research suggests that depression can weaken the immune system, resulting in chronic infections, colds and allergies. Acupuncture can help repair a weakened immune system by increasing the body’s production of T-cells, which help eradicate harmful bacteria and viruses.

6. It’s an Alternative to Toxic Medications

Unlike antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications with potentially harmful side effects, acupuncture has almost no adverse side effects. Its holistic approach can help relieve depression and anxiety naturally.

Acupuncture is completely safe for most. Side effects are highly unusual, but when they do occur, they might include:

  • Soreness
  • Muscle twitching
  • Tiredness or drowsiness
  • Itching in the treatment area
  • Allergic reaction to the needles
  • Bleeding or bruising around the needle insertion point

Ultimately, the biggest risk of acupuncture comes from improper technique. That’s why it’s critical to consult a highly trained and certified practitioner who can perform this treatment safely.

Learn More About Acupuncture for Depression and Anxiety

Anxiety and depression can make life and everyday tasks more challenging — thankfully acupuncture is a great treatment option.

If you want to learn more about how acupuncture works or would like to schedule a consultation with an acupuncturist, our team at the Won Institute of Graduate Studies can assist you. We offer treatment sessions through our professional and student acupuncture clinics, where our licensed faculty members supervise student interns.

We are committed to improving the well-being and quality of life for individuals and society, and we want to aid you in your journey to overcoming depression and anxiety. Contact one of our clinics to book an acupuncture appointment today.

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