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Acupuncture for anxiety

Can Acupuncture help with anxiety? A look at the research.

According to an article published on @evidencebasedacupuncture, the answer is YES! Acupuncture can help in the treatment of anxiety!

First let’s have a look at what anxiety is and what it feels like.

Anxiety can be experienced in a variety of different ways. Some report a restlessness, flutters or a sensation of pressure in the chest, trouble concentrating and difficulty sleeping. Others will find themselves fatigued, excessively worrying, have trouble with their digestion even feel nauseous and/or bloated. Anxiety can also present as irritability, muscle tension, tremors and shortness of breath.

Regardless of the presentation, when anxiety becomes a constant companion, the simple task of getting out of bed can feel like a big hurdle. Chronic stress over time can even lead to decreased immune function and/or systemic inflammation.


What triggers these responses?

If we look at it from the angle of biology, anxiety is a state triggered by a perceived threat to our well-being or survival. In most of us, this physiological response appears when necessary and subsides after the threat has been eliminated.

When we are in a prolonged period of stress or when the body is somehow chemically imbalanced due to lifestyle, heredity or illness, the stress response does not subside and a person can become chronically anxious.

The body responds to stress by:

  • Activating your nervous system by releasing hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol.
  • Increasing your heart rate so that your body has an increased of supply oxygen in case you need to run away. This is a process called Heart Rate Variability – the ability for the heart to adjust to external stimuli.
  • Your digestive system slows down to redirect the energy towards the limbs (again so you can run away!
  • Breathing becomes more rapid and shallow to allow more oxygen to enter the blood stream.

What research says about acupuncture and anxiety.

A 2016 systematic review with over 400 randomized patients concluded that ‘the effects from acupuncture for treating anxiety have been shown to be significant as compared to conventional treatments.’*

How? According to the data, acupuncture helps:

  • Calm the hypothalamus’ release of neurochemicals in response to stress.
  • Increase the release of endorphins (what is often referred as the ‘feel-good’ chemicals).
  • Improve the body’s ability to cope with stress through better Heart Rate Variability, which is the heart’s ability to adjust its rate according to information received by the environment.

On a personal level, I have also seen acupuncture very successful with patients suffering from anxiety though the mind-body connection. When someone suffers from anxiety, I have often observed a disconnect from the body. Patients that come to me will often struggle to identify where in the body they feel pain or stress.

One of the most common feedback that I receive after a series of treatment is that they feel more connected to their body and what happens within it, which in turns allows patients to feel more connected and in control of their physical body.


If you would like to see if acupuncture can help you manage your stress or anxiety, don’t hesitate to get in touch!


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