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Acupuncture And Depression: Everything You Need To Know

For centuries, people have used Acupuncture to help heal their bodies and provide relief from multiple ailments. In recent decades, traditional health practitioners have turned to acupuncture to treat various conditions. Initially applied in traditional Chinese medicine, this procedure has become more popular in the United States in recent years, with millions of people seeking acupuncture treatment each year.

The popularity is influenced by the discovery that acupuncture can treat both the body and the mind, especially depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. For those still battling mental health symptoms, even with years of standard medical procedures, acupuncture may be the next best alternative. This article discusses everything you need to know about acupuncture for depression and anxiety.

Understanding Acupuncture

Acupuncture treatment entails using thin steel needles about the size and width of human hair. These are inserted into various parts of the body depending on the health condition being addressed. These health issues may vary from one person to another but generally include:

  • Arthritis

  • Chronic pain

  • Back pain

  • Migraines

  • Menstrual cramps

  • Allergies

  • Knee pain

  • Sports injuries

According to acupuncture practitioners, in traditional Chinese medicine, the human body has a unique flow of energy that helps regulate your overall health. Inserting needles to specific body parts (called meridians in acupuncture procedure) boosts your energy flow and overall health.

What Is Depression?

Depression is medically classified as a mental or mood disorder. It can be described as feelings of loss, guilt, sadness, or anger that trigger internal or external factors. Depression is a common problem that can disrupt your daily activities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 8.1 percent of Americans aged 20 and above experienced depression at any given time. Depression affects people in different ways and may result in diminished quality of life, lost productivity, and even suicide. Several factors can also trigger depression. They include chronic or terminal health conditions such as:

  • Arthritis

  • Asthma

  • Cancer

  • Diabetes

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Obesity

Generally, feeling down is a normal process in life, since sad or frustrating events can happen to anyone. But if you tend to feel hopeless or down a little more frequently than usual, you could be facing possible depression. Depression is a severe mental disorder which if not dealt with, can harm your overall health.

Depression in Chinese Medicine is typically caused by stagnation. This prevents the proper blood and nutrients from reaching the brain causing depression. Stagnation can be caused by trauma, long-term stress, poor diet, lack of movement, and an overall imbalance within the organs and meridians. It can also be caused by a deficiency, again lack of nutrients reaching the brain but in this case, the body doesn't have enough nutrients to properly function. Improper diet, breathing problems, problems with the gut absorbing nutrients, and lack of blood (by a TCM definition) are the issue.

Herbs, acupuncture, and dietary recommendations if needed are used to unwind any stagnation, stimulate proper absorption of nutrients, get the body out of the chronic stress pattern that causes disease, and bring balance to all systems. You can also pair acupuncture treatments with therapy or medications.

Symptoms Of Depression

Although depression may happen only once in your life, you may experience multiple episodes where you experience the following symptoms or feelings:

  • Sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness

  • Frustrations, irritability, or outbursts of anger over minor issues

  • Loss of interest or enjoyment of most normal life's activities, like hobbies or sex,

  • Unhealthy sleep patterns such as insomnia

  • Tiredness and fatigue

  • Increased or reduced appetite and weight gain or loss

  • Anxiety and agitation

  • Slowed thinking, reduced memory

  • Feelings of worthlessness or self-blame

  • Wallowing in self-pity

  • Obsession with death, suicidal thoughts, or suicide attempts

  • Unexplained physical issues such as headaches

For most people battling acute depression, symptoms may be severe such that you could quickly notice a change in your daily activities, such as low productivity or lack of concentration on studies. Otherwise, they may well wallow in self-pity from time to time.

Cause Of Depression

Generally, there is no known cause of depression. However, it's typically triggered by several factors, including existing health issues. Medically, depression may be triggered by the following:

Biological difference

Depressed people tend to feel physical brain changes that may all point to the cause of depression.

Brain chemistry

Neurotransmitters in the brain play a significant role in depression.


Hormonal imbalance, especially during menopause, pregnancy, or post-childbirth, can trigger depression in women.


People with generationally acquired traits tend to experience acute depression. Researchers are working to identify the genes that cause depression.

Preventing Depression

There's no definite way or procedure for preventing depression. However, there are a few steps that may help overcome depression, such as:

  • Controlling stress and engaging in activities that can help boost your self-esteem

  • Build a robust support system through friends and family

  • Seek counseling for devastating life's issues

  • Go for long-term treatment solutions to avoid a relapse of the symptoms.

Acupuncture and Depression

Can acupuncture help depression and anxiety? That's a question most people tend to ask, and we tend to answer it based on scientific evidence. Several studies support the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of depression and anxiety. They include the probability of reduced depression after a few sessions. In one study involving 151 men and women, researchers found that acupuncture helped these patients overcome depressive symptoms. Those who opted for treatment for depression through acupuncture recorded significant improvement compared to those who did not. Another study found that acupuncture had the same effect as fluoxetine, an antidepressant drug used to treat clinical depression.

Furthermore, acupuncture has been known to help reduce migraines as most depressed people tend to experience severe migraines. Studies also indicate that people who suffer from chronic migraines are highly likely to experience depression compared to those who have no history of frequent headaches. It was found that acupuncture can help depressed pregnant women overcome the symptoms by 14%. The same study also found that most women develop depression as a result of pregnancy. Depression can be dangerous for both the unborn baby and the mother, who may take antidepressants or alternative treatment for depression. Depression-targeted acupuncture may help pregnant women overcome depression as a safer alternative treatment option.

Possible Side Effects Of Acupuncture

Although there are multiple studies to back up the effectiveness of acupuncture for depression and anxiety, there are a few known side effects of this treatment solution. These effects include bruising, soreness, or, in some cases, minor bleeding on acupuncture meridians.

Other rare drawbacks may include dizziness, nerve damage, internal bleeding, dermatitis, hepatitis B, and physical pain. These drawbacks are occasional and may occur to those with acute or chronic underlying conditions. There's a high chance you'll experience bleeding or bruising if you're using blood thinners or you suffer from a blood disorder.

Furthermore, you should not go for acupuncture if you have medical devices on your body, such as a pacemaker, infusion pump, or spinal cord stimulation electrodes.

Some acupuncture types, such as pregnancy acupuncture, may induce labor. Therefore, it is essential to consult with your doctor on the ideal type of acupuncture to undertake if you are pregnant. It is always safer to discuss with your doctor all the available treatment options for depression, than settle on one that works for you.


There are multiple treatment options for depression. However, some research backs the effectiveness of acupuncture for depression and anxiety. To learn more about acupuncture and how it can help you overcome depression, you might want to consult with your local acupuncturist on the different types of acupuncture that best suits your condition. If you are looking for a licensed acupuncturist in Scottsdale or Phoenix, contact us now to book a consultation.


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