The Paradox of Acupuncture & Anxiety
You wouldn't think that getting poked with needles, and then lying still for 20 minutes with the needles and your thoughts could help your anxiety. But Jill from the dog park swears by acupuncture and tells you how it's helped her with her anxiety. So here you are trawling the the internet to find answers.
Well my friend, fortunately for you Jill is right but more importantly according studies and my clinical experience acupuncture CAN help anxiety.
How can acupuncture help with anxiety?
1. Through improving sleep
I see you reading on your phone in bed at 2 am. Most anxiety sufferers rarely get a good nights sleep, which perpetuates the symptoms of anxiety. Melatonin is a hormone produced in your body that helps your fall asleep. This study shows the acupuncture increases the production of melatonin whilst also increasing the quality of sleep (1)
2. Through it's sedative effects
One of the most common effects of acupuncture that I see in clinic is relaxation and sedation. Whilst I may contribute it to my soothing and hypnotic speaking, the fact is, scientifically speaking acupuncture has a sedative effect! Research has shown the increase of endomorphin-1, beta endorphin, encephalin, serotonin and dopamine during acupuncture (2). You can't deny the feel good effects of these happy hormones.
3. Through turning on the parasympathetic nervous system
It's a fight or flight world. We are constantly being exposed to environmental, physical and emotional stressors. Anxiety is a healthy response to a stressful trigger that allows us to protect ourself. Eg. if you saw a giant spider in the corner of your room you would get out that room ASAP. However when the body is inundated with stressors, we are permanently in sympathetic mode and more prone to anxiety. Acupuncture can help switch on the parasympathetic mode allowing the body to relax (3)
4. Through looking at other underlying conditions that may be contributing to your anxiety
Chronic pain and gut dysfunction can significantly impact an individual's mood. Studies have shown that approximately 90% of serotonin is found in the gut and that digestive issues can influence serotonin production and mood (4). Good news is that Chinese Medicine looks at the whole picture. So while I'm addressing your anxiety, I'm also treating your IBS. It's a win win situation really.
Even though acupuncture is amazing, I always emphasise the importance of seeking professional help in the form of counselling, psychotherapy, or mentoring alongside my treatments.
From personal experience, the combination of acupuncture, herbs and counselling helped me through a few rough patches in my life. I was sick of being controlled by my anxiety and emotions and decided to prioritise self care in the form of Chinese Medicine treatment and counselling. The positive effects were subtle and and unremarkable at first but as time went by I realised that I was in such a better place than I was 3 weeks ago. I know firsthand the benefits of treatment and I hope that I can help you too! Contact me for more info.
Spence W, Kayumov L, Chen A, Lowe A, Jain U, Katzman M.A., Shen J, Perelman B, Shapiro C.M., (2004) "Acupuncture Increases Nocturnal Melatonin Secretion and Reduces Insomnia and Anxiety: A Preliminary Report" 2004; 16:19-28 https://doi.org/10.1176/jnp.16.1.19
Cabyoglu M.T., Ergene N, Tan U (2006) "The Mechanism of Acupuncture and Clinical Applications" International Journal of Neuroscience,116:2,115-125,DOI: 10.1080/00207450500341472
Arai Y.C.P., Sakakima Y, Kawanishi J, Nishihara M,Ito A, Tawada Y, Maruyama Y (2013) "Auricular Acupuncture at the “Shenmen” and “Point Zero” Points Induced Parasympathetic Activation"Heart Rate Variability and Complementary Medicine https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/945063
Kim D.Y., Camilleri M (2000) "Serotonin: a mediator of the brain-gut connection" The American Journal of Gastroenterology; New York Vol. 95, Iss. 10, (Oct 2000): 2698-2709.DOI:10.1111/j.1572-0241.2000.03177.x