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Acupuncture for Anxiety Relief

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Updated May 01, 2012

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Some research suggests that acupuncture (a needle-based alternative therapy long practiced in traditional Chinese medicine) holds promise as a means of alleviating anxiety. Although scientists have yet to fully understand how acupuncture affects the body, it's thought that the therapy may help calm the central nervous system and promote relaxation. Indeed, scientific studies indicate that acupuncture may help reduce a number of anxiety-related symptoms (including rapid heart rate and an increase in blood pressure).

The Science Behind Acupuncture and Anxiety

There's some evidence that acupuncture may be beneficial in treatment of anxiety (including generalized anxiety disorder), according to a research review published in 2007. However, the review's authors caution that more research needs to be conducted before any firm conclusions about acupuncture's anti-anxiety effects can be drawn. In analyzing 12 previously published clinical trials, the authors also found "some limited evidence" in favor of the use of acupuncture for pre-surgery anxiety.

Other research indicates that acupuncture may help tame anxiety caused by certain stress-inducing situations. For instance, a 2007 study of 67 people undergoing painful dental work found that a pre-treatment acupuncture session was just as effective as anti-anxiety medication in lowering anxiety levels.

More Approaches to Natural Anxiety Treatment

Acupuncture isn't the only alternative therapy that may offer anxiety relief. Studies show that several other mind-body practices (including meditation and yoga) may help manage anxiety, while natural remedies like passionflower could help improve some anxiety symptoms.

Should You Use Acupuncture for Anxiety?

Due to the lack of science behind acupuncture's anti-anxiety effects, the therapy cannot currently be recommended as a principal treatment for anxiety-related problems. In many cases, individuals may need to combine several therapeutic approaches and lifestyle changes (such as avoiding caffeine, exercising regularly, and getting sufficient sleep) in order to effectively manage their anxiety. If you're interested in using acupuncture to manage an anxiety disorder, talk to your doctor about incorporating acupuncture into your treatment program.

Sources:

Karst M, Winterhalter M, Münte S, Francki B, Hondronikos A, Eckardt A, Hoy L, Buhck H, Bernateck M, Fink M. "Auricular acupuncture for dental anxiety: a randomized controlled trial." Anesth Analg. 2007 104(2):295-300.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "Acupuncture: An Introduction". NCCAM Publication No. D404. Created December 2007.

National Institute of Mental Health. "Anxiety Disorders".

Pilkington K, Kirkwood G, Rampes H, Cummings M, Richardson J. "Acupuncture for anxiety and anxiety disorders--a systematic literature review." Acupunct Med. 2007 25(1-2):1-10.

Rosted P, Bundgaard M, Gordon S, Pedersen AM. "Acupuncture in the management of anxiety related to dental treatment: a case series." Acupunct Med. 2010 28(1):3-5.

Wang SM, Kain ZN. "Auricular acupuncture: a potential treatment for anxiety." Anesth Analg. 2001 92(2):548-53.

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