Acupuncture has been used to treat mental health disorders for centuries. Recently, the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), including acupuncture, yoga, medication, massage, herbs and supplements has been more accepted in the west.
Many of my clients swear it has helped them, especially for issues of pain. But why isn’t acupuncture for anxiety treatment more regularly used and recommended ?
Chinese medicine teaches that acupuncture brings the body into harmony. Although it has been used for centuries, it hasn’t been widely embraced among practitioners in the west. This is mostly because we don’t fully understand how it works, although it does seem to work. The positive changes seem to have something to do with the alteration of central nervous system neurotransmitters in our body.
Different forms and methods of acupuncture make uniform practice of acupuncture difficult to ensure. Creating solid research design is a challenging task. Evidenced based practice is important for providers to get reimbursed by insurance companies, and gathering evidence for acupuncture’s evidence is challenging. Researchers have attempted to do studies on acupuncture and anxiety treatment; areas where there is evidence for it's efficacy are summarized below.
In a comprehensive literature review appearing in an edition of Acupuncture and Medicine, it was concluded that acupuncture, when used with people who suffered from general anxiety disorder, had favorable results (Pilkington, Hagen, Cummings, and Richardson, 2007).
Another more recent literature review done in Evidence - Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that acupuncture delivered on the day of surgery had positive results for clients who had anxiety about that surgery. Some studies have suggested that auricular acupuncture, acupuncture done on points of the ear, is the most helpful kind with these kinds of patients ( Bae, Bae, and Byung-Il Min 2014).
Further studies have shown success using acupuncture with patients who have dental anxiety( Michalek-sauberer, Gusenleitner, Gleiss, Tepper and Deusch, 2012).
Research has also focused on women who have been suffering with issues of infertility, and undergoing in vitro fertilization. Women struggling with issues of infertility often develop anxiety and depression along with symptoms of grief. Studies suggest acupuncture may reduce anxiety symptoms in these women ( Isoyama , Cordts , de Souza van Niewegen , de Almeida Pereira de Carvalho , Matsumura , Barbosa 2012).
These are all areas where the use of acupuncture may provide an alternative for clients who are struggling with intense anxiety and do not elect to take antidepressants or other drugs for anxiety.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a mood disorder affecting women that occurs during specific times in their menstrual cycle. It consists of mood disturbance, physical symptoms, sleep and appetite disturbance. PMDD can be disabling and can impact a woman’s relationships, job or school performance. Currently the standard treatment is to prescribe antidepressants or hormone therapy, both of which can come with an array of side effects. Especially for young women, this can be and undesirable choice. Some studies have shown a decrease in both psychological and physical symptoms associated with PMDD with the use of acupuncture ( Carvalho, Weires, Ebling, and Ferrão, et al. 2013).
In summary, if you are struggling with anxiety, it might make sense to give acupuncture a try. It is unlikely that a doctor will suggest it, because the research done isn’t of the best quality, and we don’t completely understand how acupuncture works. However, many of my clients have had positive results with acupuncture, and it is unlikely that you will have any undesirable results.
Bae, Hyojeong; Bae, Hyunsu; Byung-Il Min:Cho, Seunghun(2014). Efficacy of Acupuncture in Reducing Preoperative Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis. Evidence - Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://dx.doi.org.proxy141.nclive.org/10.1155/2014/850367
Carvalho, Fabiana; Weires, Kelly; Ebling, Márcia; Padilha, Maristela de Souza Rabbo; Ferrão, Ygor Arzeno; et al. (2013). Effects of acupuncture on the symptoms of anxiety and depression caused by premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Acupuncture in Medicine, 31,4,358-63. Retrieved from http://nclive.org/cgibin/nclsm?url=http://search.proquest.com.proxy141.nclive.org/docview/1470427108?accountid=13217
Isoyama, Daniela; Cordts, Emerson Barchi; van Niewegen, Angela Mara Bentes de Souza; de Carvalho, Waldemar de Almeida Pereira; Matsumura, Simone Tiemi; et al. (2012). Effect of acupuncture on symptoms of anxiety in women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: a prospective randomised controlled study Acupuncture in Medicine. 30, 2 , 85-8. Retrieved from http://nclive.org/cgi-bin/nclsm?url=http://search.proquest.com.proxy141.nclive.org/docview/1021381195?accountid=13217.
Michalek-sauberer, Andrea; Gusenleitner, Erich; Gleiss, Andreas; Tepper, Gabor; Deusch, Engelbert.(2012) Auricular acupuncture effectively reduces state anxiety before dental treatment--a randomised controlled trial. Clinical Oral Investigations, 16,6, 1517-1522. Retrieved from http:// nclive.org /cgibin/nclsm? url-http://search.proquest.com.proxy141.nclive.org/docview/857175133?accountid=13217
Pilkington, Karen; Kirkwood, Graham; Hagen, Rampes; Cummings, Mike; Richardson, Janet. (2007)Acupuncture for anxiety and anxiety disorders - a systematic literature review Acupuncture in Medicine ,25, ½, 1-10.Retrieved from http://nclive.org/cgi-bin/nclsm url=http://search.proquest.com.proxy141.nclive.org/docview/217508213?accountid=13217
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