Acupuncture is a treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine where fine needles are inserted at certain energetic points in the body to restore and promote good health.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the free flow of energy, or “life force” (“qi”) through the body in channels called meridians is considered essential for good health. Any disruption in this energetic flow and balance can cause illness, both mental and physical.
Acupuncture is believed to restore the flow of qi and thus restore health.
The needles, usually up to twelve, are inserted in particular places on the body (‘acupuncture points’), chosen according to your condition. They may be inserted just under the skin, or deeper to reach muscle tissue. Sometimes the needles are rotated or an electric current is passed through them (electroacupuncture).
Acupuncture and mental health
- Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stressSprott, H., Franke, S., Kluge, H. and Hein, G. (1998). Pain treatment of fibromyalgia by acupuncture. [online] Rheumatology International, 18 (1), pp. 35-6. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9672997 [accessed 12 Sept. 2017].
- Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has been shown to promote relaxation, deactivate the ‘analytical’ brainHui, K. K., Marina, O., Rosen, B. R. and Kwong, K K. (2010). Acupuncture, the limbic system, and the anticorrelated networks of the brain. [online] Autonomic Neuroscience, 157(1-2), pp. 81-90. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Acupuncture%2C+the+limbic+system%2C+and+the+anticorrelated+networks+of+the+brain [accessed 12 Aug. 2017].
- Acupuncture can have a specific positive effect on mental health issues by altering brain chemistry, for instance:
- Increasing the production of serotoninHan, J. S. (1986). Electroacupuncture: An alternative to antidepressants for treating affective diseases? [online] International Journal of Neuroscience, 29 (1-2), pp. 79-92. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3516903 [accessed 12 Sept. 2017].
- Increasing endorphinsWang X. J. and Wang, L. L. (2010). [A mechanism of endogenous opioid peptides for rapid onset of acupuncture effect in treatment of depression.] [online] Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine, 8 (11), pp. 1014-7. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21078263 [accessed 12 Sept. 2017].
- Acting on dopamineScott, S. and Scott, W. N. (1997). A biochemical hypothesis for the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of substance abuse: acupuncture and the reward cascade. [online] American Journal of Acupuncture, 25 pp. 33-40. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286738460_A_biochemical_hypothesis_for_the_effectiveness_of_acupuncture_in_the_treatment_of_substance_abuse_Acupuncture_and_the_reward_cascade [accessed 12 Sept. 2017].
- Accelerating the release of noradrenalineHan, J. S. (1986). Electroacupuncture: An alternative to antidepressants for treating affective diseases? [online] International Journal of Neuroscience, 29 (1-2), pp. 79-92. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3516903 [accessed 12 Sept. 2017].
- Lowering neuropeptide YPohl, A. and Nordin, C. (2002). Clinical and biochemical observations during treatment of depression with electroacupuncture: a pilot study. [online] Human Psychopharmacology, 17 (7), pp. 345-8. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12415553 [accessed 12 Sept. 2017].
Acupuncture can be helpful for:
- Sleep issues
Hempel, S., Taylor, S. L., Solloway, M. R., Miake-Lye, I., Beroes, J. M., Shanman, R., Booth, M., Siroka, A. and Shekelle, P. (2014). Evidence Map of Acupuncture. [online] Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs (US). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK185076/ [accessed 12 Sept. 2017]., Errington-Evans, N. (2012). Acupuncture for anxiety. [online] CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics. 18 (4), pp. 277-84. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22070429 [accessed 12 Sept. 2017]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29231433
Acupuncture has been found to be particularly helpful for depression in:
- PregnancyManber, R., Schnyer, R. N., Lyell, D., Chambers, A. S., Caughey, A. B., Druzin, M., Carlyle, E., Celio, C., Gress, J. L., Huang, M. I., Kalista, T., Martin-Okada, R. and Allen, J. J. (2010). Acupuncture for depression during pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial. [online] Obstetrics and Gynecology, 115 (3), pp. 511-520.
- Post-strokeZhang Z. J., Chen, H. Y., Yip, K. C., Ng, R. and Wong, V. T. (2010). The effectiveness and safety of acupuncture therapy in depressive disorders: Systematic review and meta-analysis. [online] Journal of Affective Disorders, 124 (1-2), pp. 9-21. Smith, C. A., Hay, P. P. and Macpherson, H. (2010). Acupuncture for depression. [online] Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews, (1), CD004046. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20091556 [accessed 12 Sept. 2017].