Can Acupuncture Affect Depression?

Man receiving acupuncture treatment

Using Acupuncture to Help Treat Stress and Depression

Medication isn't the only solution if you're suffering from depression. Acupuncture may reduce the severity of your symptoms and improve your overall mood.

Acupuncture Can Be An Excellent Addition to Your Treatment Plan

Acupuncture needles may be hair-thin, but they're very effective in relieving blockages of Qi, the life force that travels through your body in a series of meridians. Qi blockages can affect your physical and mental health and can be a factor in a variety of conditions, including back pain, arthritis, digestive issues, allergies, headaches, sinusitis, stress, infections, illnesses, and depression.

During acupuncture treatments, your acupuncturist inserts tiny needles into your skin. Insertion points correspond to specific meridians where blockages occur. Once the blockage is removed, you'll notice a gradual improvement of your symptoms.

Treatments Ease Depression Symptoms

Acupuncture relieves depression in several different ways. Treatments trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that regulate mood and sleep, reduce stress, and help you feel happy and calm.

After an acupuncture session, your endorphin levels may be elevated. Endorphins are known as your body's natural pain relievers, but they do much more than relieve pain. The hormones also induce a state of well being, improve your mood and self-esteem, and minimize pain.

Activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that helps you process emotions, increases if you're depressed and encounter a negative situation. Acupuncture may decrease activity in the amygdala, making it much easier to handle difficult situations without triggering or worsening depression.

Acupuncture may also decrease the production of cortisol, a hormone that your body produces when you're stressed. Consistently high levels of cortisol can cause depression and anxiety and may contribute to or cause a variety of health issues, including digestive problems, insomnia, weight gain, poor memory, headaches, and heart disease. Acupuncture offers a drug-free way to keep your cortisol level under control.

Treatments can be used alone to treat depression or may be combined with counseling or antidepressants. Although you may still need to take antidepressants in some cases, acupuncture treatment may allow you to lower your dosage and decrease unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, dry mouth, blurred vision, lethargy, and drowsiness.

Research Supports the Effectiveness of Acupuncture

Researchers examined the results of several acupuncture studies in a review published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. After reviewing study results, they reported that acupuncture for depression was beneficial and well-tolerated by study subjects.

In one study, Chinese researchers noted that acupuncture helped 88.9 percent of patients who received the therapy. Those results compared favorably to the 84.8 percent efficacy rate for fluoxetine (Prozac). Twenty-one patients were considered cured in the acupuncture group, while only nine patients were cured in the group that took Prozac.

Another review published in Evidence Based Acupuncture noted that acupuncture helps reduce anxiety symptoms as well. Since anxiety often occurs along with depression, the finding is particularly important.

More research is needed to support the results of existing studies, but it's clear that acupuncture is an effective approach to treat depression. Whether you suffer from mild, moderate or severe depression, beginning acupuncture treatment can help you manage your condition. Contact us if you're ready to schedule your first appointment.

Sources:

The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry: Acupuncture for Depression: A Review of Clinical Applications, 7/1/2012

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/070674371205700702

HealthCMI: Acupuncture Found Effective for Depression, 9/7/16

https://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1676-acupuncture-found-effective-for-depression-relief

Evidence Based Acupuncture: Acupuncture as a Therapeutic Treatment for Anxiety

https://www.evidencebasedacupuncture.org/present-research/acupuncture-anxiety/

Cochrane: Acupuncture for Depression, 3/4/18

https://www.cochrane.org/CD004046/DEPRESSN_acupuncture-depression

Psychology Today: Acupuncture for Stress and Depression? Yes, Please!, 9/28/15

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/renaissance-woman/201509/acupuncture-stress-and-depression-yes-please

Psychiatric Times: Role of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Depression, 5/13/09

https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/depression/role-acupuncture-treatment-depression/page/0/1