Chinese Medicine

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Can Acupuncture Help with Depression?


Do you suffer from depression or anxiety and seek an alternative treatment option? Acupuncture is a centuries-old traditional Chinese medicine practice that involves inserting fine needles, about the width of a human hair, into specific parts of the body to stimulate nerve pathways and enhance overall health. In this blog, we will explore how acupuncture can be used as an effective way to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety while providing clarity on the safety concerns that come with any therapy involving needles. 


What constitutes depression?

Depression is a long-term feeling of sadness or lack of motivation. It differs from short-term grief periods after a loss or a traumatic life event. According to the  World Health Organization depressed people lose interest in various activities, experience weight changes, and have difficulty sleeping or getting up in the morning. Thoughts of death or suicide are common, as the person feels worthless and lacks the energy to live. Sometimes pain, which cannot be linked to a physical cause, manifests in depressed people. Around 5% of adults in the world are depressed, according to WHO statistics. 


What constitutes anxiety?

While it is normal to experience some anxiety in stressful situations, an anxiety disorder results in excessive fear and anxiety and can be debilitating. The American Psychiatric Association has provided estimated percentages of US adults with varying anxiety disorders, ranging from Social Anxiety disorder (7% of adult Americans) to specific phobias (8 -12%). 


How Does Acupuncture Work? 

The trained acupuncturist will locate the points on the body that correspond with specific organs and systems and, by stimulating, help to improve overall health. The idea is that when the energy flow within these meridians becomes blocked, illness can occur; acupuncture helps restore balance and alleviates the symptoms associated with poor energy flow.


Research has revealed that acupuncture releases neurotransmitters such as endorphins, which are responsible for pain relief; serotonin, which helps regulate mood; and norepinephrine, which increases alertness and motivation. This explains why acupuncture can be effective in treating both depression and anxiety, as an increase in levels of these neurotransmitters can help regulate mood and reduce stress levels.


In addition to affecting neurotransmitter levels, research suggests that acupuncture may also affect other brain areas related to processing emotions and emotional regulation. Acupuncture combined with Western medicine had more effect on improving depression than Western therapy alone, according to a review conducted by Karen Pilkington of the University of Westminster, London, UK. 


acupuncture help with depression


Overall, research suggests that acupuncture may be an effective treatment for depression and anxiety due to its ability to increase neurotransmitter levels in the brain and its potential effects on the brain regions that process emotions. If you want to explore alternative treatments for depression or anxiety, arrange an appointment with a professional acupuncturist.