People usually consider acupuncture to be for older folks with back pain or hipsters who don’t believe in modern medicine. However, there has been growing research on how effective acupuncture really is and all the ways it can help improve your physical and mental health.
Mental health conditions are always tricky. People require therapy, which can take anywhere from weeks, months, or even years to provide results. Moreover, people with mental health problems are prescribed heavy medication, which comes with an extensive set of side effects, including weight growth, reduced memory, and diminishing mental capacity.
With so much at stake, is medication really the best way to treat people with anxiety? What if it could be done through a few sessions of acupuncture? Let’s find out!
Does Acupuncture for Anxiety Really Work?
Although it has now become common for people to seek out acupuncture for different forms of pain relief, mental pain continues to be a rather uncommon area. New studies are constantly proving how acupuncture can do wonders to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and even treat it in the long run. However, people are still unsure of how acupuncture works for people experiencing anxiety and heightened levels of stress.
Let’s go over the various effects that acupuncture for anxiety can have on your body. These will help you understand why acupuncture is now being considered a possible treatment plan for numerous mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.
Balances Neurotransmitters and Your Hormones
Increased stress and anxiety trigger the production of certain hormones in the body. These hormones, namely adrenaline and cortisol allow the body to deal with this incoming stress in an appropriate manner.
However, chronic stress and long-term anxiety will also have another effect on your body – reducing your serotonin levels. Serotonin is the hormone associated with feel-good emotions, happiness, well-being, etc. With increased cortisol levels and lowered serotonin, a person ends up feeling stuck in their never-ending loop of anxiety. They often feel like there is no way out, and they will never experience happiness again.
Fortunately, acupuncture can do wonders to bring a hormonal balance into your body. It ensures the increased production of adrenaline and cortisol is stopped, and your serotonin levels are raised to reduce anxiety symptoms.
Stimulates the Relaxation Response
In high-stress conditions, your sympathetic nervous system is switched on, which triggers certain emotional and physiological changes within your body. Acupuncture counters this by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and initiating the body’s relaxation response. This acts as a brake on your anxious thoughts and increases blood pressure. The parasympathetic response also has an instantly calming effect on the body, which can make it easier to manage anxiety.
Deactivates Your Analytical Side of the Brain
Your analytical side of the brain is responsible for most of your anxiousness. It causes you to worry about things that might never come to pass and overthink every single instance of your life. When you go for an acupuncture session, you will experience this side of your brain being deactivated. Acupuncture also affects the primary somatosensory cortex of your body, reducing sensitivity to pain, stress, and depression.
Reduces Internal Inflammation
Lastly, acupuncture is a great way to reduce various inflammatory markers in your body. It reduces the production of chemicals that are associated with anxiety and restores immune function, which, in turn, allows your body to manage the anxiety response more effectively.
What to Expect in a Session?
When you go in for your acupuncture appointment, the professional acupuncturist will start by asking you what you’re looking to treat. They will ask questions about your symptoms, any medication you might be taking, your medical history, and whether you have any serious health concerns. They will also ask you whether you have any questions or reservations about the process. So, this is a good time to hold a fruitful discussion with them and have your doubts cleared out.
Once the acupuncturist is well aware of your current medical state, they will proceed with the session.
During the session, the acupuncturist will insert thin, long needles into various pressure points across your body. The exact points that are targeted depending on what you’re looking to treat, hence the prior questioning. Depending on the pressure points targeted, your end goal for the session, and the number of needles used, each session can take anywhere from just 10 minutes to half an hour or more.
In general, the needles are left on your body for around 20 minutes before being removed.
Now, a major concern to address is a relief. People often expect instant relief after their acupuncture session has ended, and they end up disappointed. The fact is that acupuncture has a slow yet holistic effect on your body. It can take a few sessions before your acupuncture for anxiety really starts to work, but these gradual changes are permanent, which makes the practice well worth it.
Are There Any Risks Involved?
While it can be safely established that getting acupuncture done will not make your anxiety worse, there are other risks and side effects you should keep in mind. Fortunately, most of these risks can be eliminated if you go to a licensed and reputable acupuncturist who works in a registered clinic.
The main side effect that people mention after acupuncture for anxiety sessions is soreness. This generally dissipates within a few hours, but you might find some bruising around the targeted pressure points. It isn’t generally a cause of concern and will naturally heal in the next few days.
Since licensed acupuncturists make sure to use sterile needles and dispose of them after each session, it is usually a safe practice. However, if your practitioner doesn’t sterilize the needles well or doesn’t use disposable ones, it can put you at risk of numerous infections and transmissible diseases. Although these complications are uncommon, it is still better to ensure that the needles are sterilized before the session starts.