“How can acupuncture help with depression?”
That was the first thing I asked my masseuse when she told me that I should try acupuncture.
You see, back when I was suffering from depression I had recurring chest pains and decided to have them checked by a professional.
After coming to the conclusion that those weren’t anything dangerous, the doctor that I visited at the time told me that I should try Tui na.
Tui na is a form of Chinese Manipulative Therapy (CMT), a healing process of sorts.
At the time I thought it was some “mystical” nonsense and didn’t want anything to do with it.
My family, however, was worried and made me give it a go.
5 meetings later and I was pretty much done with it, but my masseuse did suggest that I try some acupuncture.
She believed that my problem was more “internal”.
Needless to say, I didn’t.
Over time, however, I began noticing how some people kept bringing up all of that alternative medicine to depression and anxiety.
At first, I disregarded it, choosing to believe that there was nothing more to it than wishful thinking.
Yet upon consideration I realized that my doctor, who was a trained professional, also recommended Chinese therapy.
Although I was still skeptical I decided to give it a look and see whether or not there was something more to acupuncture than I originally thought.
So, after checking all the fact, here is everything that you need to know about acupuncture and how it relates to depression and anxiety.
Acupuncture can help with depression and anxiety
Or at least that’s what some studies on the subject suggest.
As it turns out, there are many academic resources who would argue that acupuncture is a legitimate form of treatment for both depression and anxiety.
One particular review from 2013 attempted to figure out if acupuncture can help women who suffer from anxiety and depression.
They summarized 6 studies on the subject, with 4 of which demonstrating evidence that acupuncture can help with depression and anxiety.
As you can see, it can work. But how does it work?
What made people think that sticking needles in others was a good idea? What is the scientific basis here?
How does acupuncture help with depression and anxiety?
This is the tricky part.
There are multiple pieces of data to suggest that acupuncture is effective in treating depression as well as anxiety, but the basis for such a claim is rather lacking.
As it turns out, there are multiple, reasonable, explanations to that.
Over the years both the traditional, as well as the scientific, schools of thought approached the subject using their own methods.
Some of the results support, and some oppose, the concept of acupuncture.
Here is everything that you need to know.
Stress disrupts the flow of energy in the body
For the traditional perspective, it is all about energy.
Qi, the body’s “energy” moves around inside us much like blood does.
Qi moves through our body via pathways called “meridians”.
The idea is that any intense exposure to stress (mental, physical, emotional spiritual etc.) will disrupt the flow of Qi inside the body.
This causes a reaction to “ripple” through the body, making people experience symptoms that seemingly have very little to do with the actual problem.
In that sense, the acupuncturist’s job is to find these “unrelated” issues and pinpoint their causes.
Then he sticks his needles, which “adjusts” the disrupted flow of energy, making it normal again.
Some would even argue that acupuncture can make you feel better than ever.
Some scientists look at it from a different perspective
All of the Qi-based explanations for acupuncture are well and good, but what scientific evidence is there to support acupuncture?
According to some studies, acupuncture affects the nervous system.
In other words, acupuncture can manipulate the body by releasing chemicals and hormones that greatly influence have a positive effect on us.
Said chemicals and hormones affect the spinal cord (Medulla oblongata), the muscles and the brain.
The brain, in tur, affects many other systems and mechanisms inside the body.
In that sense, the Qi and meridians are metaphorical terms for chemical balance and the nervous system.
The scientific approach also seems to support the rippling effects of acupuncture on the body.
By affecting a select few systems, acupuncture can affect your body as a whole.
Some studies disagree with these conclusions.
Many experts, however, disregard the notion that acupuncture can help with depression and anxiety.
Furthermore, they were unable to find any theoretical explanation that would explain the effects of acupuncture on any psychological disorder.
Other, practical, demonstrations also showed no promise.
From a review that they conducted, summarizing 30 trials and using 2,812 participants, there was no evidence to support acupuncture in this particular case.
Many argue that most data that supports acupuncture is highly biased, with many studies and trials lacking in terms of design and method.
The scientific community is divided on the subject of acupuncture, with many experts believing many different things.
In that sense, trying acupuncture and seeing for yourself is the only way for you to really know.
Acupuncture is not risk-free
It should be noted that the risks of acupuncture are quite low, but that isn’t to say that they don’t exist.
Although most trained practitioners of acupuncture wouldn’t be making this mistake, it is highly important to use sterilized needles at all times.
In one particular study, there were 95 participants who were exposed to acupuncture.
Among those 95 people, 38 reported cases of infections (said infections were easily solved with antibiotics, though)
Bacterial infections were the most commonly encountered complication of acupuncture.
Another major documented complication of acupuncture is pneumothorax.
Pneumothorax, otherwise known as a collapsed lung,
Although such cases are rarely reported, there are still enough of them to raise at least a few red flags for anyone.
A counter-argument for that is that any medical procedure has at least a few possible complications to it.
In that sense, there’s nothing “particularly” wrong with acupuncture.
Some people who do not believe in acupuncture would argue that it should be avoided altogether.
If there is no benefit and some risk, why try it out at all?
So what’s the right answer here? That’s up to you to decide.
In any case, an experienced practitioner is unlikely to make these sorts of mistakes.
Should you choose to try acupuncture invest some time and ask people for recommendations.
So what are the alternatives to acupuncture?
Even when compared to other spiritual methods of recovery, there are some great alternatives for acupuncture that will help you combat both depression and anxiety.
Meditation is the first, and biggest one, that comes to mind.
It has a wide scientific backing to it, minimal risks with practically no negative long-term effects.
It can be performed daily and lead to great improvements within a relatively short period of time.
Seriously, if you are skipping on meditation then you are missing out, no question about it.
Another great spiritual alternative is to get more connected to your religion (if you have any)
There is a wide array of data to support the fact that religious people have better mental health than those who aren’t.
Furthermore, studies demonstrate there is a direct relation between your levels of religious zeal and mental health
Even among other CMT practices, there are many that work on the same principles as acupuncture.
That isn’t to say that acupuncture is useless to you.
In fact, it might be exactly what you need – you’ll have to try it out for yourself and see how it goes.
Should you try acupuncture?
The only one who can answer that particular question is you.
Some people would swear to you that acupuncture was the only thing that brought them relief.
Others would tell you that trying it was a waste of both time and money.
A few might even mention a few medical, technical, complications that they have faced.
In my particular case, acupuncture didn’t do much good.
Maybe it was because I didn’t really believe in it or maybe because there are no magic solutions to depression and anxiety, I wouldn’t know.
I would, however, recommend that you try helping yourself before leaving putting all of your faith on acupuncture.
Self-help is highly effective, some studies suggest that even more so than therapy, and can be done from the comforts of your home.
I would highly recommend checking out the Panic Away Program.
In it, you will find everything that you need to know on how to overcome anxiety, panic, and negative thoughts, as well as the practical methods to do just that.
If, on the other hand, you suffer from depression, then the Destroy Depression System will serve you much better.
With workbooks and guides ranging from dietary suggestions all the way to behavioral therapy, you can’t really go wrong with this program.
For any questions feel free to get in touch with me via email or the comment section below.
I will be glad to help you however I can!