In today’s society - where depression affects a vast number of people - antidepressant medications have become an extremely conventional and seemingly experimental way of treating the disorder.
Anything from genetic, biochemical, environmental, and psychological predispositions may contribute to the manifestation of the disorder. It may be triggered by stressful events, such as loss of a beloved person, illness, relationship issues or financial difficulties. Did you know, though, that over two-thirds of the UK population suffering from anxiety fail to effectively treat the condition?
How Can You Treat Depression?
Alternative or complementary methods like psychotherapy, yoga, or a nutritional approach can work to address the pathologies that overwhelm patients suffering from depression. Additional research also suggests that acupuncture could be a promising option – and that’s what we’re focusing on today.
One recent study found that traditional Chinese acupuncture – as performed here in our Chelsea clinic – can be as effective as antidepressants. A different study also revealed that acupuncture may even help treat the side-effects of the medication if is performed in combination with it.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
In acupuncture, a practitioner inserts needles into the skin at points of the body thought to correspond with specific organs, as perceived from a Chinese medical perspective.
The Chinese believe that acupuncture facilitates energy and blood circulation throughout the body, in a bid to deliver more effective relaxation levels and a more grounded state of mind. This leads to an acknowledgement of one’s self and eases the transition from stagnated energy (negative out of centre thoughts, leading to pathological concerns as the mind affects the body). The patient can then transition into a more confident state in which realisations can happen.
In Chinese medicine, the pathologies of depression mainly form a liver excess pattern, in which the energy is stagnant and generating heat. It could also focus on a heart fire, where the heart is overwhelmed by emotional fire or is coming from a deficiency state. This means the energy or the blood is unable to nourish the body and mind, and can no longer function smoothly to support and give the appropriate strength to the patient.
How Does Acupuncture Alleviate the Symptoms of Depression?
The evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture for depression consists of several randomised controlled trials and systematic reviews, which take a very analytical approach.
Findings from clinical studies have also been explorative regarding its efficacy. However, new scientific evaluation brings different effects of acupuncture - particularly its role in brain neurochemical regulation – into consideration.
What Does the Research Reveal?
Western research suggests the needles may activate natural neurochemical factors in the brain that may regulate pain and stress, as well as endorphins, serotonin and norepinephrine regulation.
Acupuncture anxiety-reducing results are hypothesised on an existing theory, stating that anxiety is characterised by an unbalanced sympathoadrenal system which may be relieved by endorphin-like brain involvement.
Acupuncture is also believed to decrease the activity of the sympathoadrenal system and increase the body’s level of endorphins. It also excites rhythmic muscle discharges in nerve fibres, causing the release of endogenous opioids and oxytocin, which are essential to the induction of regulated body functioning.
Beta-endorphin levels control pain and provide deeper levels of relaxation. This normalises blood pressure and rising body temperature - particularly in the brain, with clinical significance in the sympathetic nervous system by triggers at hypothalamus and brain stem brain lesions.
Despite this, more rigorous trials or different methodology are needed to justify the effectiveness of acupuncture on treating depression.
That Said, More Than 20,000 Doctors Would Recommend Acupuncture for Anxiety & Depression
The medical modality has gained sufficient respect from the western scientific world. Did you know that over 20.000 doctors in the UK would recommend it alone or in combination with modern, antidepressant medication for the treatment of depression or anxiety?
Although there is no separate discipline in treating psycho-emotional issues in Chinese medicine, this medical tradition has long acknowledged the importance of mental and emotional factors in health and illness. It has been used to apply its fundamental principles on a holistic manner in respect of the body-mind connection.
What’s more, the theoretical, cultural, and terminology-related differences between Chinese and Western medicine make it challenging to integrate the two systems of healing. However, this has led to a vast amount of western research with apparent clinical results.
So, acupuncture can now be deemed a safe alternative or additional treatment for depression and anxiety. Will you take the plunge and give it a go this year?