Acupuncture is an age-old traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice that has withstood the test of time. Even today, acupuncture is still used to assist in healing and recovery, as well as to relieve discomfort and pain. Acupuncture therapy is popular among patients who have undergone intensive and harsh treatments, such as surgeries and chemo-radiation therapy. Because of its ability to improve patient recovery and its lack of adverse effects, many patients in search of relief are now opting for this natural therapy instead of using analgesics. In a recent study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers from the Second Military Medical University in China reported that acupuncture also has a positive influence on mental health. The results of their randomized controlled trial showed that acupuncture can be used to reduce depression symptoms in patients recovering from stroke.
Acupuncture can help with post-stroke depression
The effectiveness of acupuncture in relieving pain has been demonstrated by numerous studies. To evaluate its effects on depression and mental health, the researchers conducted a single-blind double-simulated randomized controlled trial involving patients from the inpatient wards of the neurology and rehabilitation departments of a university hospital. They enrolled 68 patients who met their criteria and randomly assigned them into two groups: intervention and control.
The intervention group received acupuncture therapy and an oral placebo, while the control group received fluoxetine and minimal nontraditional acupuncture (minimally active penetration). Both groups received treatment daily but separately for six weeks.
The researchers used the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD-17) to measure the outcomes, and the Side Effect Rating Scale (SERS) of Asberg plus a self-designed needling adverse events scale to measure the side effects of acupuncture. They also statistically evaluated the clinical effects of acupuncture for both groups before treatment, on weeks 2 and 6 of treatment, and after three months.
The researchers reported that the curative effects of both interventions were similar, as observed on week 6 and on the third month. However, the intervention group had a much earlier onset time (week 2) and also reported fewer side effects than the control group.
Based on these results, the researchers concluded that body acupuncture is effective in reducing depression symptoms in stroke patients and causes fewer side effects than modern drugs. This healing art, therefore, should be considered as an option for the treatment of the neuropsychiatric sequelae of stroke.
How acupuncture affects mental health
According to TCM, depression results from the blockage of qi or energy caused by physical or emotional trauma, poor diet, or physical and emotional stress. Because the smooth flow of qi is vital for the maintenance of equilibrium inside the body, blocked qi needs to be released to restore balance. Acupuncture therapy was developed exactly for this purpose. Instead of relying on medications to alleviate the problem, acupuncture focuses on the underlying cause to treat a patient’s condition.
Acupuncture improves an individual’s sense of well-being and induces relaxation, according to patient testimonies. Research suggests that acupuncture can alleviate mental health issues because it encourages the release of endorphins, which are hormones that naturally suppress pain. Acupuncture also helps the body heal by improving blood circulation, which, in turn, allows oxygen and nutrients to be delivered more efficiently to different tissues of the body. In addition, acupuncture reduces cortisol levels and relaxes the heart, resulting in a lower heart rate and blood pressure. (Related: Acupuncture performs as well as drug therapy for treating high blood pressure.)
The effects of acupuncture on mental health aren’t just proven by patient reports. Several studies have also demonstrated the efficacy of acupuncture as treatment for anxiety and depression. For instance, an article which appeared in the journal Medical Acupuncture reviewed the results of six randomized controlled trials and found high-level evidence supporting the use of acupuncture for the management of major depressive disorder in pregnant women.
Another review of published studies also found substantial benefits in using acupuncture to treat major depressive disorder. The article, which was published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, reported that acupuncture can potentially be used as an effective monotherapy for depression. Not only that, but acupuncture also proved effective in augmenting the effects of antidepressants while reducing their discomforting side effects. These results prove that the health benefits associated with acupuncture, especially in relation to mental health, are worth looking into.
Acupuncture is considered generally safe. To learn more about this ancient healing art, visit ChineseMedicine.news.