I often treat patients for specific injuries or conditions (such as tinnitus or TMJ to name just two), but at times acupuncture treatments can also help to relieve other ailments such as anxiety along the way. Anxiety, whether short term or chronic in form, is a widespread mental health concern affecting many people in this country—40 million American adults, or 18% of the population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Although acupuncture is not a replacement for anxiety therapy, it can be a helpful adjunct to primary therapy. It can at times also offer a drug-free way for anxiety sufferers to improve their well being, which can be beneficial due to the side effects that anxiety medications sometimes cause.
Throughout the course of my practice, I’ve noticed that patients tend to feel better and less anxious following acupuncture treatments. One of my patients recently told me that everything that gets bottled all up in her chest gets released and starts to flow after she gets acupuncture, and she feels much less anxious. Many people report feeling much calmer and less anxious for a few days after a treatment. I have one patient in particular who refuses medication and used to come for anxiety and related symptoms twice per week. He now comes in for treatment perhaps a few times a year, sometimes for a few weeks at a time.
Research also indicates that acupuncture may be an effective complementary therapy for treating anxiety. According to a 2013 study on acupuncture, students who received a twenty-minute acupuncture session experienced less anxiety and improved memory immediately following the treatment when compared with students who did not receive any acupuncture treatment. And as the study itself notes, previous studies have shown that acupuncture can reduce generalized anxiety, depressive anxiety, and pre-operative anxiety.
Acupuncture also helps alleviate conditions that are linked to anxiety. Trigger point therapy, for example, can heal the damage caused by stress by relieving tense muscles in areas such as the neck, shoulder, and upper back, thereby breaking the cycle of shallow breathing that perpetuates stress. Acupuncture can also help treat insomnia—both the symptoms and underlying factors that lead to it—restoring the proper sleep cycle that is so necessary to our physical and psychological well being. In this way, acupuncture can be a beneficial option for treating a specific illness or injury from which a patient may be suffering while also reducing anxiety or any related conditions that they may also happen to be experiencing.