Millions of people suffer from anxiety in America and Canada. It goes far beyond natural worry about a stressful situation and can have a huge negative impact on quality of life. Possible treatments include medication and/or therapy, but if these are not working for you, or you want to supplement your treatment, then more people than ever are turning to anxiety acupuncture.

What is anxiety acupuncture?

Acupuncture, at its most basic, involves inserting needles at various locations around the body, known as pressure points. Similar principles apply in acupuncture for anxiety as in acupuncture for other reasons, such as attempting to alleviate chronic pain. The needles are relatively fine and do not penetrate too deeply, so you are unlikely to feel more than a light pinprick and maybe mild soreness after a session. If carried out properly, you could feel the benefits of acupuncture almost immediately. It may also be combined with other treatments such as reflexology. Your acupuncturist may recommend weekly sessions for a more long term impact.

How does it work?

In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture was a way to unblock the flow of energy, or qi. Scientists have undertaken a lot of research to investigate the biological mechanisms underpinning acupuncture’s stated positive effects. There are several theories about how it works, including that it stimulates blood flow and the production of endorphins, which do not just act as pain relief but also make you feel brighter and more energetic.

The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is the part of the nervous system responsible for responding to stress. This includes the so-called “fight or flight” instinct, where the body prepares for action by releasing certain hormones (including adrenaline), increasing your heart rate, making you breathe faster, causing your pupils to dilate and possibly making you sweat. Remaining in this state for any length of time, such as when you have anxiety and cannot calm yourself, puts your entire body under a great deal of strain.

It is possible that acupuncture changes these reactions. Instead of the sympathetic nervous system pushing your body into overdrive, you may switch back to your parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of the nervous system responsible for the body at rest, that helps you recover after a period of activity (such as digesting food after you have eaten), and therefore makes you feel calmer.

How will I feel?

Many people with anxiety find that acupuncture helps them feel calmer and more clear-headed, with better concentration and memory. It may also make your muscles feel less tense, increase your quality of sleep, improve your appetite and digestion, and lead to fewer major incidents of anxiety.

Not everyone will experience the possible benefits of acupuncture in exactly the same way, but with a properly qualified acupuncturist, it is a safe way to try and alleviate some of the symptoms of anxiety if other approaches have failed. It can provide a valuable supplement to medication and therapy and can be adjusted to suit your specific needs.