Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine used for thousands of years, is actually one of the most common complementary and alternative treatments for anxiety.
In this article, we’ll go over what acupuncture is, how it works, and whether or not it can help with anxiety—and if so, how. We’ll also cover some specific types of anxiety that might benefit from acupuncture treatment as well as how complementing your current treatment plan with acupuncture could improve your overall health and well-being.
What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine under the umbrella of traditional Chinese medicine, or Oriental medicine. It uses needles to connect with the body’s energy systems, according to traditional thought. Acupuncture is based on the idea that the body has channels of energy, or chi, that run through meridians. That energy can be affected and manipulated via acupuncture points in order to treat a number of medical conditions, such as chronic pain, nausea, fertility issues, stress and anxiety.
While the use of acupuncture has been widespread throughout Asia for thousands of years, it was only introduced in Western countries in the 1970s. Today, it’s still considered an alternative treatment by some people, although some insurance companies are now starting to cover acupuncture treatments as part of their benefits.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture involves inserting very thin needles into specific points along the body’s energy meridians. Traditionalists believe that the needles stimulate and facilitate the flow of chi to heal the body. According to Western medicine, these acupuncture needles stimulate the nervous system and release endorphins, which are natural chemicals in your body that help you feel relaxed and happy.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of unease or dread, often accompanied by nervous behavior such as pacing, trembling, and sweating. Anxiety can be short-term (lasting just a few minutes) or chronic (lasting for weeks or months) and is a normal reaction to stress that everyone experiences from time to time. Anxiety can be triggered by anything from an exam at school to an argument with your partner.
Anxiety is also different from depression in that it’s generally related to some specific event or situation—though there are times when people have both conditions at once.
Symptoms of Anxiety
When you’re stressed, your body reacts by producing chemicals called neurotransmitters. These chemicals cause changes in your brain and body that make you feel anxious or on edge.
While anxiety is a normal response to stress – it gets your attention so that you can deal with the threat or challenge – when anxiety symptoms become severe, however, they can interfere with daily life. You may have trouble concentrating on work or school, making decisions, enjoying time with friends, sleeping well at night, or relaxing during your leisure time.
Anxiety symptoms can include the following concerts:
- Increased heart rate
- Tension headaches
- Worrying about things that usually don’t bother people
- Feeling tense all over (body and muscle aches)
Can Acupuncture Help With Specific Types of Anxiety?
Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in treating complex mental illness like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Other anxiety disorders, however, such as panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCS), social anxiety, and phobias, have not had extensive studies performed concerning acupuncture’s effectiveness.
How Does Acupuncture Compare to Other Treatments for Anxiety?
Acupuncture is not a cure for anxiety, but it may help reduce the intensity and frequency of anxiety attacks in certain individuals. Acupuncture does not replace medication or psychotherapy as a treatment for anxiety disorders, nor does it replace exercise, meditation, yoga, or other therapies that are also recommended as part of an overall treatment plan for managing panic attacks and other types of chronic stress-related conditions.
For those with severe cases of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) or complex health conditions, it’s important to seek professional help from a psychiatrist or therapist before trying acupuncture or any other alternative therapies.
What Are the Side Effects of Acupuncture?
As with any therapy, acupuncture can cause side effects. Most of these are rare and very mild, but some patients may experience more severe reactions.
Common temporary side effects include the following:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Numbness, tingling or bruising in the area where needles were applied
If you’re concerned about adverse reactions to acupuncture, discuss your concerns with a doctor before you begin treatment.
Acupuncture: Effective Treatment For Anxiety
Acupuncture is a promising solution for the treatment of anxiety. It’s safe, effective, and has few side effects. The best part is that it can be used alongside other treatment options like anxiety medication or therapy.
While it’s important to remember that there are many factors involved in managing your symptoms, acupuncture can be another tool to help maintain good mental health. Contact Meridian HealthCare today to learn more and set up an acupuncture session with one of our licensed acupuncturists.