Acupuncture For Anxiety
by Dr. Carlo Carandang, MD
Does Acupuncture Work To Treat Anxiety?
What Is It?
Acupuncture is an alternative treatment which involves placing needles into the body at acupuncture points. It is used for pain relief, but is rarely used alone.1 Acupuncture has recently been applied to anxiety treatments. The anxiety relief seen in acupuncture may also be similar to other relaxation and meditative treatments, as a practitioner in acupuncture utilizes relaxation and meditation when placing the needles at various points in the body.
Does It Work?
There is preliminary evidence that acupuncture may be helpful for anxiety.1-3 However, there is not enough evidence to recommend it as sole treatment for anxiety. Rather, it can be a complementary treatment, alongside another core treatment for anxiety, such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). In any event, as part of a behavioral technique to distract you from your anxious thoughts, and as a relaxation and meditative technique, acupuncture can be stress-relieving and can be an important part of self-care. The focus during acupuncture is on the pressure points of the needle insertions, breathing, and mindfulness.
Acupuncture is safe when performed by a practitioner who has sterile technique and utilizes single-use needles. The main side effect is bacterial infection from the site of insertion. However, no hepatitis was reported.5
Acupuncture can only be an adjunctive treatment for anxiety at this time. However, the cost of acupuncture sessions may be too expensive, and your money is better spent on other treatments which will provide more bang for the buck.
- The effectiveness of acupuncture in treating chronic non-specific low back pain: a systematic review of the literature. Hutchinson AJ, Ball S, Andrews JC, Jones GG. J Orthop Surg Res. 2012 Oct 30;7:36.
- Treating generalized anxiety disorder using complementary and alternative medicine. McPherson F, McGraw L. Altern Ther Health Med. 2013 Sep-Oct;19(5):45-50.
- The effect of acupuncture on working memory and anxiety. Bussell J. J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2013 Oct;6(5):241-6.
- [Impacts of acupuncture at twelve meridians acupoints on brain waves of patients with general anxiety disorder]. Zhou XF, Li Y, Zhu H, Chen LL. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2013 May;33(5):395-8.
- Adverse events of acupuncture: a systematic review of case reports. Xu S, Wang L, Cooper E, Zhang M, Manheimer E, Berman B, Shen X, Lao L. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:581203.