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A Full Guide to Acupuncture for Anxiety

An anxious young woman sitting at her desk.
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You know how anxiety can affect every facet of a person’s life. In today’s fast-paced world, anxiety is quickly becoming one of the most common mental health conditions people suffer from, but it’s far from a new phenomenon. Someone 2,000 years ago has experienced the same symptoms you do today, so there is no reason to only look at modern solutions when tried and true methods have existed for just as long. One of those methods is acupuncture for anxiety.

In this article, we will discuss how acupuncture can help you relieve symptoms of anxiety, what modern medicine says about its effectiveness, and what you can do on your own to increase the beneficial effects. However, before we get to that, let’s explain how acupuncture for anxiety works.

How Acupuncture for Anxiety Works

According to traditional acupuncture, your body has 14 meridians – energy channels that allow the free flow of Qi, your natural energy, within the body. When these channels are blocked, you may start to experience various negative symptoms, both physical and emotional. Acupuncture is the practice of releasing these blockages through the insertion and manipulation of acupuncture needles into acupoints.

In the West, this perspective was disregarded for a long time but many doctors and scientists have started to come around and believe that Qi is simply an ancient term for your body’s metabolic functions. Thus, according to the perspective of Western medicine, acupuncture for mental health, and anxiety in particular, works by stimulating the release of your body’s beneficial chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin and lowering the production of stress hormones like cortisol.

Regardless of which approach you choose to believe in, acupuncture for anxiety can help you relax, destress, and minimize the negative symptoms of anxiety disorders.

Is There Any Proof that Acupuncture for Anxiety Works?

Acupuncture is a common treatment for anxiety, so you should have no trouble finding people who have had treatments to ask about their experiences. While every person will have a somewhat different response after a session, we believe that personal experiences are a great way to get unfiltered information and know what benefits you can expect. However, beyond personal anecdotes, acupuncture for anxiety has been extensively studied in the medical field.

One older systematic review that evaluated the efficiency of acupuncture in treating different types of anxiety disorders by analyzing the results of ten controlled trials found positive outcomes of acupuncture treatments when compared to sham acupuncture (as the name suggests, sham acupuncture is intentionally fake acupuncture that is used to determine whether the effects of acupuncture treatments are real or the result of placebo).

A newer meta-analysis, from 2021, which included 20 randomized controlled trials, found similar results – that acupuncture has beneficial effects in treating symptoms of general anxiety disorders. This study also looked at the side effects of acupuncture and found it to be a safe treatment. One area where acupuncture is particularly effective is as a treatment for preoperative anxiety. A study has demonstrated that it is a good alternative to pharmaceuticals, specifically for elderly and complex patients.

In total, many medical studies have analyzed the effects of acupuncture on anxiety and found it to be a safe and effective solution, either as the primary or as a complementary therapy.

An Additional Benefit – Relieving Physical Tension

In addition to helping relieve anxiety symptoms, these treatments can give you physical relief too. Prolonged exposure to stress builds tension within your muscles, which can cause discomfort and even chronic pain. Acupuncture improves the blood flow and oxygenation to your muscles, easing physical tension and providing pain relief.

How Acupuncture for Anxiety Safeguards Against Other Illnesses

Stress is a major contributing factor to a lot of conditions, from heart disease to insomnia. Acupuncture has many short- and long-term benefits and one of the long-term benefits of acupuncture for anxiety is that it safeguards you against stress-related illnesses by balancing your hormone production and lowering your stress levels.

For instance, it has been demonstrated that acupuncture can lower your cortisol levels. While cortisol is your body’s natural response to stressful situations and is advantageous in many situations, having high levels of cortisol over a long period of time can have a lot of negative effects, such as increasing the chance of type-2 diabetes. By managing your stress levels, acupuncture for anxiety is also an effective preventative treatment against such diseases.

Managing Stress Levels Between Sessions

A woman talking to a therapist after getting acupuncture for anxiety treatments.

You will likely feel better after each session and that feeling of relief will last for some time, however, you can also take steps to enhance the benefits of acupuncture for anxiety between sessions. Alongside acupuncture, you could consider:

  • Psychotherapy – acupuncture takes a holistic approach to treating anxiety symptoms and that may also include recommendations to seek help from other medical professionals, such as psychotherapists.
  • Acupressure – you should not try acupuncture on your own at home. For that matter, the Food and Drug Administration’s regulations prohibit the sale of acupuncture needles to anyone but licensed therapists. However, you could try acupressure – it functions based on the same underlying principles but without the needles. Ask your acupuncturist for guidance on which acupoints you could stimulate to feel relief between sessions.
  • Physical Activity and Breathing Exercises – physical activity is a good, non-invasive way to regulate anxiety and stress levels. Of course, it is also good for your overall health. You could try focusing on physical activity that incorporates breathing exercises to further lower your stress levels. Yoga and qigong are good examples of such activities.
  • Balanced diet – your diet can be another contributing factor to the effectiveness of acupuncture. In general, avoiding alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and trans fats and including organic meats and plants high in fiber in your diet is good advice. However, each body is unique, so it could be advantageous to consult with a nutritionist to find the best diet for you.

What About the Side Effects?

We have discussed how acupuncture for anxiety can help you lead a healthier life, but all medical treatments have some potential side effects, do they not? The same is true for acupuncture, yet, the adverse effects are minor and short-lived. After acupuncture sessions, you may experience:

  • Some pain at the insertion spot.
  • Minor bleeding or bruising.
  • Some people feel fatigued for a few days after treatments, but this typically happens only after the first session or two.
  • Acupuncture can lower your blood pressure, so you may feel dizzy or lightheaded during or after a session.

While the most common side effects of acupuncture are minor and many people don’t experience any, you should inform your therapist of any preexisting medical conditions so that they may take the appropriate preventative measures.

How To Get the Most Out of Anxiety Treatments

Acupuncture for anxiety is sometimes most effective when it is the primary therapy, while other times it should be used as a complementary treatment. To get the most out of anxiety treatments, you should visit an acupuncturist who takes a holistic approach and will consult with other healthcare professionals when it is needed.

This is what we provide at BH Acuhealth Clinic. We are a licensed acupuncture clinic in Beverly Hills that has been serving the community for over twenty years. We promise to treat you with the care and compassion you deserve so book an appointment and will we create the most effective treatment plan to manage your anxiety and improve your quality of life. Dr. Mitra Daneshrad




Make an Appointment: (424) 466-8966