How Acupuncture Can Help Treat Depression

How Acupuncture Can Help Treat Depression

Approximately 17.5 million Americans suffer from clinical depression. Many patients take antidepressants which come with a host of side effects including insomnia, weight gain, dry mouth, and nausea. Others have been searching for alternative medicine and natural solutions. Many have found solace in traditional Chinese medicine known as acupuncture.

Most Americans are unfamiliar with the practice of acupuncture. The word alone conjures an image of someone getting needles stuck in their skin, which isn't what usually comes to mind when looking for a mental illness treatment. However, the combination of Western science and ancient Chinese medicine has proven how acupuncture can help treat depression.

One study conducted by the University of York in the UK measured how acupuncture can help treat depression. Researchers examined 755 patients with depression over three months; 302 participants received weekly acupuncture appointments, and another 302 subjects went to weekly counseling meetings. The other 151 patients stuck to their routine treatments. Seventy percent of the participants were already using antidepressants and remained doing so even during different procedures.

The results were astonishing. Before the study, participants reported an average of 16 out of 27 depression score, which indicates moderately severe depression. By the end of the study, the usual care group's score dropped to 13, the counseling group to 11, and the acupuncture group to 9. Researchers concluded that one-third of participants who received acupuncture or counseling no longer reported having depression. Furthermore, those in the acupuncture or counseling groups said that the benefits lasted for an additional three months after the study. However, it's important to note that the patients were still taking antidepressants even after the study concluded.

According to ancient Chinese beliefs, an energy called qi runs throughout the human body. The qi flows through points called meridians, which are associated with specific organs. Sometimes these meridians get blocked and disrupt the qi flow, causing irritation and negative emotions. Long-term qi stagnation can result in anything from mild discomfort to chronic stress. Acupuncture can help treat depression and other related conditions by unblocking these meridians and restoring qi flow.

While Western science might not necessarily accept the idea of qi, acupuncture has been proven to release a different kind of energy: endorphins also called the "feel-good hormone." Endorphins help reduce pain and boost positive emotions such as euphoria and pleasure. The body produces endorphins during exercise, which is why so many people feel happy after hitting the gym. Endorphins can help stave depression, anxiety, addiction, chronic pain, and stress. 

Thankfully, acupuncture's side effects are incredibly minimal. Most practitioners who are well-trained and use clean needles. However, malpractice can result in bruising, fatigue, lightheadedness, organ injury, pain, and worsening of symptoms. These side effects are incredibly rare and usually very mild. You shouldn't worry about any severe damage from a licensed practitioner. 

Most people aren't aware of how acupuncture can help treat depression. Acupuncture and other alternative medicines have the potential to create a significant difference in many people's lives. Patients who embrace natural remedies can overcome their depression and reclaim their happiness.


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