Important to know: Chronic health conditions should be addressed under direct medical supervision of your GP or consultant, and acupuncture would be an adjunct or complement to usual care – we advise that you let you doctor know when you use this approach.
Roughly 1 in 6 of us experience anxiety. Evidence lies in a positive direction for the use of acupuncture, which is safe, and can be used alongside other modalities. The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) works with the charity Anxiety UK to provide acupuncture for this condition, and the researchers have generalised anxiety outcomes data from acupuncture patients having a course of six acupuncture treatments, with preliminary results very encouraging (n=30 – see BAcC research digest – link below).
The BAcC Research Digest discusses several recent trials and reviews, including:
An RCT where a statistical difference in anxiety levels was found for hospital nursing staff receiving an acupuncture protocol after 10 sessions (Kurebayashi et al, 2017; n=180);
A systematic review (13 papers) found encouraging evidence for acupuncture in anxiety disorders, and giving few side effects (Amorim et al, 2018), although they noted trial quality was variable, meaning further well-designed RCTs are warranted. Another review (Goyatá et al, 2016) looked at 67 articles for anxiety and acupuncture, stating that this is a promising area and echoing the call for further research.
Mechanisms of Action:
As per the British Acupuncture Council’s factsheet, there are many physiological studies on animals and humans looking at brain scans (fMRI), as well as levels of hormones and neurotransmitters in blood and other bodily fluids after acupuncture treatment that have shown effects of the treatment on downregulating the response to pain and stress in the body, particularly in the limbic system (for example Hui et al, 2010; fMRI in humans).
Amorim, D., Amado, J., Brito, I., Fiuza, S.M., Amorim, N., Costeira, C. and Machado, J., 2018. Acupuncture and electroacupuncture for anxiety disorders: a systematic review of the clinical research. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 31, pp.31-37.
Hui, K.K., Marina, O., Liu, J., Rosen, B.R. and Kwong, K.K., 2010. Acupuncture, the limbic system, and the anticorrelated networks of the brain. Autonomic Neuroscience, 157(1-2), pp.81-90.
Kurebayashi, L.F.S., Turrini, R.N.T., Souza, T.P.B.D., Marques, C.F., Rodrigues, R.T.F. and Charlesworth, K., 2017. Auriculotherapy to reduce anxiety and pain in nursing professionals: a randomized clinical trial. Revista latino-americana de enfermagem, 25.
Takamatsu Goyatá, S.L., Valcanti Avelino, C.C., Marques dos Santos, S.V., Inácio de Souza Junior, D., Lopes Gurgel, M.D.S. and de Souza Terra, F., 2016. Effects from acupuncture in treating anxiety: integrative review. Revista brasileira de enfermagem, 69(3).
British Acupuncture Council evidence based factsheet about anxiety including specific research, trials and mechanisms of action for acupuncture in this condition.
British Acupuncture Council Research Digest – Anxiety Section (towards base of document)