Acupuncture for Anxiety

by John & Barbara Connor, M.Ac., L.Ac.

Today John and I would like to share with you our thoughts about how acupuncture can help relieve anxiety. Most of us experience anxiety or worry to some degree when we are faced with a particularly difficult or stressful situation in life. Some of the ways that we cope with anxiety and worry include working out the best way to resolve the issue, calling up a friend or a therapist and talking about it, journaling, breathing exercises, meditation, prayer, qigong, yoga, hiking, jogging, biking, watching a good comedy, etc.

It is generally accepted that when we aren’t worrying, we are happy.  But remaining in that state is not so easy because we have to consciously not worry. John and I use acupuncture and craniosacral treatments to help our patients in consciously not worrying or being anxious so that they can feel that natural state of happiness which everyone wants to be in.

It is helpful to remember the reassuring words of Meher Baba where he says: “Things can never be helped merely by worrying. Besides, many of the things that are anticipated never happen; of if they do occur, they turn out to be much more acceptable than they were expected to be.”

According to Traditional Chinese medicine (The Five Elements) anxiety is connected with the Heart — Shen or Mind. So things which disturb the Shen or the Mind can cause anxiety. Worry is connected with the Spleen — Yi or Thought. So things which disturb the Yi or Thought can cause worry. In our experience craniosacral acupuncture has been particularly helpful for our patients in relieving anxiety.

The following are brief summaries of some published studies on the benefits of acupuncture and craniosacral therapy for anxiety:

In a randomised controlled trial 40 participants from a psychiatry waiting list were randomised into one of two groups: group 1 (n=25) received 10 weeks of acupuncture at PC6, HT7 and LR3, and group 2 was a waiting list control group. The waiting list group (n=15) then received acupuncture. Both groups were followed up for 10 weeks after treatment. It was concluded that acupuncture is a promising intervention for patients with chronic anxiety symptoms that have proven resistant to other forms of treatment. (Errington-Evans N 2015)

In this study it was found that acupuncture is a feasible option for postoperative breast cancer patients. In addition, it can significantly decrease the levels of anxiety, tension/muscular discomfort and pain. (Mallory et al 2015)

Acupuncture is being adopted by cancer patients for a wide range of cancer-related symptoms including highly prevalent psychological symptoms like depression, anxiety, insomnia, and impairment in quality of life. Pharmacological treatment of prevalent symptoms like anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance can contribute to the high chemical burden already carried by cancer patients, creating additional side effects. All published studies that met our review criteria demonstrate a positive signal for acupuncture for the treatment of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and for improving quality of life with most results showing statistical significance. (Haddad & Palesh 2014)

Acupuncture has been shown to reduce preoperative anxiety in several previous randomized controlled trials. In order to assess the preoperative anxiolytic efficacy of acupuncture therapy, this study conducted a meta-analysis of an array of appropriate studies. Acupuncture therapy aiming at reducing preoperative anxiety has a statistically significant effect relative to placebo or nontreatment conditions. Well-designed and rigorous studies that employ large sample sizes are necessary to corroborate this finding. (Bae et al 2014)

In this open, pragmatic randomized controlled trial it was found that integrative treatment and therapeutic acupuncture seem to be more beneficial than conventional treatment in reducing anxiety, depression, and in improving quality of life and sense of coherence after 24 weeks of follow up in patients with psychological distress. More research is needed to confirm these results. (Arvidsdotter et al 2014)

The aim of this study was to evaluate whether auricular acupuncture is an effective tool for reducing health care provider stress and anxiety and, second, to determine if auricular acupuncture impacts provider capacity for developing caring relationships with patients. Auricular acupuncture is an effective intervention for the relief of stress/anxiety in providers and supports heightened capacity for caring. (Reilly et al 2014)

The purpose of this study was to investigate whether acupuncture can improve memory and reduce anxiety. The acupuncture group scored 9.5% higher than the control group on the Automated Operation Span Task Total Correct Score (65.39 vs. 59.9, p=0.0134), and committed 36% fewer math errors (2.68 vs. 4.22, p=0.0153). Acupuncture subjects also reported lower State Anxiety after intervention than control subjects (26.14 vs. 29.63, p=0.0146). (Bussell J 2013)

Eighty patients were randomized into an acupuncture group and a clonazepam group, 40 cases in each one. In the acupuncture group,acupuncture at twelve meridians acupoints was applied, meaning quick needling at the specific acupoints of each meridian, such as Lieque (LU 7) of the Lung Meridian, Hegu (LI 4) of the Large Intestine Meridian and Shenmen (HT 7) of the Heart Meridian. Acupuncture at the twelve meridians acupoints achieves the superior and quick effect on general anxiety disorder as compared with clonazepam and the efficacy mechanism is related to the improvements of brain waves in the patients. (Zhou et al 2013)

Ear-press needle acupuncture on Yintang point reduces preoperative anxiety in adult surgical patients. (Acar et al 2013)

The results indicate that acupuncture can reduce anxiety symptoms observed by the reduction of psychological parameters of women undergoing  in vitro fertilisation (IVF). Further evidence should be sought as to whether acupuncture might be a complementary option for patients undergoing IVF. (Isoyama et al 2012)

Auricular acupuncture could be an option for patients scheduled for dental treatment, who experience an uncomfortable degree of anxiety and request an acute intervention for their anxiety. (Michalek-Sauberer et al 2012)

The objective of this study was to analyze the repercussions of craniosacral therapy on depression, anxiety and quality of life in fibromyalgia patients with painful symptoms. An experimental, double-blind longitudinal clinical trial design was undertaken. Eighty-four patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia were randomly assigned to an intervention group (craniosacral therapy) or placebo group (simulated treatment with disconnected ultrasound). The treatment period was 25 weeks. Anxiety, pain, sleep quality, depression and quality of life were determined at baseline and at 10 minutes, 6 months and 1-year post-treatment. Approaching fibromyalgia by means of craniosacral therapy contributes to improving anxiety and quality of life levels in these patients. (Mataran-Penarracha et al 2011)

Pre-exam anxiety syndrome is a common condition occurring in pre-exam students and directly affects their examination performance and physical state. Wrist-ankle acupuncture can relieve the symptoms of pre-exam anxiety syndrome significantly, and this therapy is highly safe. (Shu et al 2011)


Compassionate Acupuncture and Healing Arts, providing craniosacral acupuncture, herbal and nutritional medicine in Durham, North Carolina. Phone number 919-309-7753.


This entry was posted in acupuncture, anxiety, chronic conditions, craniosacral acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, emotional disorders, energetics, Five Elements, stress, Traditional Chinese Medicine, worry and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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