Acupuncture for Depression
Depression is one of the most prevalent mental health problems in America. A survey by Healthline found that major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the US, with an estimated 16.2 million adults having a depressive episode in a given year. Worryingly, research by the World Health Organization found that between 76% and 85% of people in low- and middle-income countries receive no treatment for depression whatsoever.
Now that scientists and doctors know more about the factors that cause depression, they can more actively work to treat the problem using a variety of different methods. Treatment normally always involves a prescription medication, but many of these medications come with a good number of side effects.
Luckily, medication is no longer the only option for patients with depression. One particularly effective, low-risk treatment method that is becoming a popular alternative therapy is acupuncture.
How Acupuncture for Depression Works
Acupuncture for depression involves the insertion of thin needles into different areas of the body, referred to as “pressure points”. The pressure points that a therapist will focus on are those that are thought to trigger low mood, heightened stress and other common derivatives of depression.
Specifically, it’s thought that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system to communicate to the part of the brain that controls emotions, including those related to depression. The brain then receives messages from the nervous system to stop releasing hormones that are associated with depression symptoms.
Some of the common pressure points for reducing depression include specific locations on the lower back, beneath the naval, on the hand, on the underside of the wrist, and on the ankle. Therapists are trained to understand exactly where and how a needle should be inserted to have the best effect.
The needles are left in the skin for a period of time – usually 20 minutes – during which you’ll lie still in a spa-like setting. Many acupuncture clinics use soft, calming music and mood lighting to heighten the sense of relaxation. When the time is up, the needles will be carefully removed from pressure points by a therapist.
Proven Benefits of Acupuncture for Depression
Multiple scientific studies have been carried out to look into the effects of acupuncture for depression, and what has been discovered so far is incredibly promising.
One large review of 64 studies found that while there were some instances where bias could have occurred, there was evidence to suggest that acupuncture could be used to moderately reduce the severity of common depression symptoms compared to no treatment or continued standard treatment.
Similarly, a 2016 study looked at the underlying effect of acupuncture on depression, and concluded that the multiple pathways involved in acupuncture worked together to produce ant-depressive effects.
The Future of Acupuncture for Depression
Acupuncture is becoming more and more widely used as an alternative therapy for treating depression. As people continue to favor non-invasive forms of treatment for mental illness, it’s easy to understand why traditional acupuncture is only increasing in popularity across the US and the wider world.