Acupuncture for Anxiety


 Anxiety and Depression disorders are increasing rapidly in North America and are even beginning to affect children and young adults. It is a deeply concerning and complex issue that involves our society, culture, genetics, trauma, and more. Both disorders can be challenging and debilitating, with most people opting to manage their symptoms with medication, diet, exercise, supplements, mediation, yoga, therapy, and more. 


Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture have been a reliable and effective treatment for anxiety and depression for thousands of years


Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture have been a reliable and effective treatment for anxiety and depression for thousands of years. TCM views anxiety and depression often as an imbalance of the heart, spleen, or liver (The TCM organs, not your actual physical organs). Here is some insight from a Western Medicine perspective on what is happening to your body’s physiology during an acupuncture treatment that treats the anxiety or depression:



  1. Acupuncture Stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system

This is the “rest and digest” side of your nervous system. It is often difficult for a person suffering with anxiety to enter into this zone on their own accord. Acupuncture needle stimulation sends messages to the brain which project onto parasympathetic nerves, allowing the body to enter this state. When the parasympathetic is activated, it slows our heart rate, lowers blood pressure, promotes digestion, allows our bodies to recover, and alters anxiety levels. 


2. Analgesic effect

Acupuncture needles can stimulate mast cells in the local area to release endorphins and substance-p, which modulates pain. This is especially useful in patients who have anxiety or depression that causes physical pain - we see this a lot in clinic. Examples of this would include neck, shoulder, and jaw tension as well as digestive disturbances, headaches, and more.


3. Heart Rate Variability

One of the most sensitive measures of the body’s ability to cope with stress is something called Heart Rate Variability (HRV). A higher HRV has been associated with better health in all domains, including mental health and low levels of anxiety. Acupuncture has been shown to improve the body’s ability to cope with stress through improving HRV. 3


Acupuncture for Depression 


4. Regulate neurotransmitter production

Acupuncture can accelerate the onset of the effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in patients with depression and can reduce drug side-effects. In one study, 126 patients with depression were randomly divided into a medicine only group and an acupuncture-plus-medicine group, and treated for six weeks. The acupuncture-medicine group showed significantly higher levels of serum levels of 5-HT (serotonin), along with significantly lower side-effect scores compared with the medicine only group.4


5. Anti-inflammatory 

A number of recent studies have confirmed that depressive disorder includes neuroimmune dysfunction, leading to the hypothesis that depression is related to activation of the inflammatory response. Acupuncture’s anti-inflammatory actions may also be responsible for its beneficial effects on depression. In the same study mentioned in #4, anti-inflammatory cytokines IL-4 and IL-10, were found to be significantly higher in the acupuncture-medicine group, and pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels were significantly lower as compared to the medicine only group.  4





Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine have an immense ability to promote healing on all levels (mental, physical, emotional) and the mechanisms of this medicine are still being understood and studied by western science. At Vital Point Acupuncture, we look at the whole picture to decide the best treatment strategy for you. This may include dietary changes, better sleep hygiene, regular acupuncture treatments, or signing up for a meditation class. Acupuncture for anxiety and depression is a safe, effective, and side-effect free option if you are suffering.



Are you or someone you know curious about acupuncture and would like to book an appointment?


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Kristina Adams

Kristina Adams


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