Acupuncture Relieves Stress and Anxiety
Acupuncturists and their patients have long realized that acupuncture offers a safe, effective treatment to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. However, though the study and practice of acupuncture have existed for thousands of years, the treatment is only recently earning recognition from Western medical practitioners as a valid, effective treatment for a wide variety of health complaints, both physical and mental.
One of the reasons Western medicine took so long to seriously consider the effectiveness of acupuncture is the nature of scientific studies. To be considered valid research, scientists must meet a wide variety of conditions. Unfortunately, the very nature of alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, makes meeting these requirements nearly impossible.
Another factor making Western medicine pause is its inability to explain how acupuncture works, even as they recognize that it does work.
How Does Acupuncture Relieve Stress and Anxiety?
The philosophy behind acupuncture tells us that there is a relationship between the elements, our emotions, and the body’s internal organs. If our emotions exert a physiological effect on our bodies, then it makes sense that we can affect emotions through physical stimulation of those same bodies.
Acupuncture recognizes five elements as representing five emotions:
- Earth = Worry
- Fire = Happiness
- Metal = Grief
- Water = Fear
- Wood = Anger
Each emotion invokes a variety of physiological responses. Anxiety’s physical symptoms include irregular heartbeat; it’s mental and behavioral symptoms include fear, irritability, and aggression.
Anxiety disorder diagnoses typically rely on which symptoms the patient exhibits. These disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Back to acupuncture. In traditional medicine, anxiety is considered an imbalance between the heart and kidneys. The heart is fire, the kidneys water. When there is imbalance between the two, there is either too much or too little fire. Your acupuncturist treats anxiety by focusing on the meridian points near the heart, kidneys, ear, and spleen.
Acupuncture as Part of a Holistic Approach to Wellness
In addition to your acupuncture sessions, your acupuncturist works with you on incorporating sustainable lifestyle changes as part of a holistic approach to full-body wellness.
These changes include diet, exercise, and meditation practices that work well to calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and relieve stress. In addition, the treatment itself is highly relaxing and rejuvenating.
Please note that, if you currently take medication to manage your anxiety or depression symptoms, DO NOT cease taking these medications without the guidance and advice of your primary physician. Though the medications themselves include a disturbing level of side effects, abruptly ceasing them comes with serious risk. If your goal is to move forward into a life without the need of psychotropic drugs, please do so under your doctor’s care.
The Challenges of Acupuncture Research
Two of the most common psychiatric disorders are anxiety and depression, with anxiety topping the list, affecting over 15 million Americans every year, with double that amount struggling with anxiety during their lifetimes.
These disorders carry an enormous financial toll on society as a whole, and represent a significant drain on the world’s healthcare systems. What’s more, they are difficult to treat, with patients displaying a relapse rate of nearly 50 percent (one of the factors causing them to consider alternative treatments).
Researchers studying anxiety and depression recognize the impact on society and its peoples, as well as the challenges inherent in drug therapies. This has caused them to look more closely at alternative therapies, including acupuncture. However, the very nature of acupuncture makes it difficult for researchers to study using traditional, scientific method.
To be considered valid by the scientific community, research must include randomized control trials (RCT), as well as a broad base of subjects (sample size) taking place in the study. Both of these factors present difficulties in acupuncture studies.
Workaround #1: Develop Study Quality Measures
To help prove the efficacy of acupuncture, researchers created the Quality Score for Acupuncture Trials (QSAT). This system creates a series of uniform controls to address and improve the quality of acupuncture studies.
To be considered valid, acupuncture studies must meet the following 10 QSAT measures:
- Inclusion and exclusion criteria
- Study design
- Control treatment
- Sample size
- Acupuncture method
- Acupuncture treatment course
- Outcome measure
- Patients lost at follow-up
This method includes the quality expectations of all scientific study, while recognizing characteristics unique to acupuncture.
Workaround #2: Think Outside the Box to Broaden Your Sample Size
Sample size issues are the second highest complaint in acupuncture studies, and it makes sense if you think about. If you ask 10 random people in a store about their favorite X, that is a too-small sample size to get an accurate gauge of society at large.
Researchers with the Georgetown University Medical Center recognized the validity of this complaint and did what medical researchers have done for decades – used rats for their acupuncture studies. By using a large number of rats divided into numerous control groups, scientists were able to compare the efficacy of acupuncture treatment under scientific conditions.
What they discovered was a reduction in stress hormones in the blood of the rats receiving electronic acupuncture (chosen because of its uniformity – they knew each rat received the exact same dosage).
As studies like this continue to occur, expect to find more and more Western doctors prescribing acupuncture for their patients.