Effective Acupuncture for Anxiety, Side Effects & Benefits

An alternative treatment for anxiety that dates back thousands of years involves inserting needles into pressure spots on the body called acupuncture. There is some scientific proof that acupuncture relieves some anxiety symptoms. Keep reading to learn more about this acupuncture for anxiety treatment method.

Acupuncture for Anxiety and Depression & Vagus Nerve Exercises for Anxiety

Depression and anxiety disorders are commonly treated with anti-depressant medication and psychological interventions. Patients with depression and anxiety are typical users of complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, either as a replacement for or adjunct to their conventional treatments.

Contemporary acupuncture practice is commonly undertaken as part of the medical hospital system in modern China, with provision either in hospitals or private practice in the United Kingdom. Traditionally, acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points, called acupuncture points, on the body to achieve a therapeutic effect. Following insertion, needles can be stimulated by hand (called ‘manual acupuncture’) or by applying a small electrical current (called ‘electro-acupuncture’). A modern alternative is laser acupuncture, a non-penetrative form that uses low-power laser light to stimulate acupuncture points.

The use of surgically implanted electronic devices for vagus nerve stimulation anxiety (VNS) is expanding in contemporary allopathic medical practice as a treatment option for selected clinical conditions, such as epilepsy, depression, anxiety, tremors, and pain conditions, that are unresponsive to standard pharmacologic interventions. Although VNS device surgeries are considered minimally invasive, they are costly and have surgical and device-related risks; they can also cause serious adverse effects from excessive vagus nerve stimulation for anxiety and depression treatment. For millennia, acupuncturists have treated those same clinical conditions by piquing acupoints located proximate to the sternocleidomastoid muscle site where the VNS device is implanted on the vagus nerve.

What is Anxiety Disorder?

According to the National Institute on Mental Health, periodic anxiety is a standard component of life. When faced with a challenge at work, before a test, or before making a crucial decision, you could experience anxiety. However, anxiety disorders involve more than just passing apprehension or terror.

It’s crucial to get anxiety treatment as soon as possible since, for someone with an anxiety condition, the anxiety does not go away and can worsen over time. The symptoms might affect daily tasks like work performance, academic progress, and interpersonal connections. Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and various phobia-related disorders are only a few of the several types of anxiety disorders.

People with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) display excessive anxiety or worry, most days for at least 6 months, about many things such as personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday routine life circumstances. Fear and anxiety can cause significant problems in areas of their life, such as social interactions, school, and work. 

Acupuncture Points for Insomnia and Anxiety

Sleep problems are common with depression, and severe sleep disturbances, including insomnia, have long been recognized as a common symptom of anxiety disorders.

“An Mian” is one of the most effective acupressure and acupuncture points for insomnia treatment. It has been proven to improve symptoms of insomnia, headaches, anxiety, and depression. 

Acupuncture may be one of the alternative methods to treat insomnia, with few side effects. At present, there are many reports that acupuncture has a significant effect on insomnia, but the safety of acupuncture in the treatment of insomnia is uncertain.

Supplementary and alternative medical therapies have proposed several treatments for insomnia, including acupuncture, acupoint massage, aromatherapy, foot reflex therapy, homeopathy, meditation exercise therapy, moxibustion, music therapy, and yoga. Acupuncture, as one of the complementary and alternative medical therapies for insomnia, has been proven to be an effective method for insomnia in many clinical trials. However, its efficacy needs further evaluation.

Healthy skills include strategies like meditation, exercise, and positive self-talk to deal with daily life can help improve anxiety symptoms. Before considering acupuncture for anxiety, it's always best to contact a therapist that can help you understand your symptoms and advice treatment options.
Healthy skills include strategies like meditation, exercise, and positive self-talk to deal with daily life can help improve anxiety symptoms. Before considering acupuncture for anxiety, it’s always best to contact a therapist who can help you understand your symptoms and advise treatment options.

Vagus Nerve Anxiety Treatment

The vagus nerves branch off the brain on either side of the head and travel down the neck, along the esophagus, to the intestinal tract. They are the longest nerves in the body and affect swallowing and speech. The vagus nerve is part of the autonomic nervous system, which governs subconsciously performed functions such as breathing and digesting.

Experts say vagus nerve anxiety exercises can be an effective and accessible method for anxiety treatment. Many experts believe that the exercise of the vagus nerve anxiety attack treatment can improve the nerve efficiency for sending signals.

While more research is needed for vagus nerve and anxiety, vagus nerve stimulation and the benefits of acupuncture for anxiety may be an effective and accessible method of stress and mood regulation. Speak with your doctor or a mental health professional to determine whether they’re a good option.

Acupuncture for Anxiety & Vagus Nerve Anxiety Fact Sheet

Acupuncture for Anxiety Success Stories

The quality of the research and success stories about the use of acupuncture in the treatment of anxiety disorders varies greatly.

Research into the use of acupuncture in the treatment of anxiety disorders is progressing in an uncoordinated manner, with generally poor methodological reporting and rationale for point selection often lacking. The conflict between the Eastern and Western acupuncture theoretical paradigms adds to the confusion presented to the practitioner searching for a gold-standard treatment.

Overall, despite the various results of clinical trials, there is evidence that acupuncture is comparable with CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), which is a common intervention in mental health treatment, but in a setting and environment in which most patients seem to find less stressful, and are well known to access voluntarily in preference to regular medical avenues.

Icing the Vagus Nerve for Anxiety

The vagus nerve is your body’s longest cranial nerve and part of your parasympathetic nervous system, which calms you down.

By icing the vagus nerve for anxiety, you activate it by stimulating it with a cold temperature, which helps signal your body to relax. You can use an ice pack on your chest for anxiety vagus nerve and on the back of your neck for a few seconds to 15 minutes to activate your vagus nerve.

Aside from vagus nerve icing for anxiety, you can also try other cold immersion techniques such as:

  • Dunking your head or splashing water on your face.
  • Taking a cold bath or shower.
  • Going outside in the cold.
  • Drinking ice water.

Aside from icing vagus nerve anxiety method, other ways to activate your vagus nerve are to:

  • Exercise.
  • Sing/hum.
  • Get a massage.

Effectiveness of Ice Vagus Nerve Anxiety Treatment

If you experience vagus nerve anxiety symptoms, research shows that the ice vagus nerve for anxiety exercise can slow down your heart rate and signal your body to relax.

Moving your body from the vagus nerve ice pack anxiety exercise can stimulate your vagus nerve. According to research from 2016, moderate activity, such as interval training and endurance training, can strengthen your vagus nerve while improving your heart rate. [3]

If you’re experiencing anxious feelings regularly after trying the vagus nerve ice anxiety technique, it may be time to consider speaking with a therapist or a mental health professional.

Many also try vagus nerve exercises to ease symptoms of hiatal hernia. A hiatal hernia occurs when the top of the stomach rolls or slides up into the opening in the diaphragm which the esophagus passes through and becomes stuck there.

Hiatal hernia is a syndrome with many symptoms affecting multiple organ systems. The exact cause of the hiatal hernia is not known. The condition may be due to the weakness of the supporting tissue. The irritation on the vagus nerve from a hiatal hernia can cause reflex irritations throughout the body. Vagus nerve hiatal hernia anxiety attacks need immediate emergency help. Common symptoms of hiatal hernia syndrome among which anxiety, panic attacks, heart palpitations, and flutters.

As a traditional therapy, acupuncture for anxiety and vagus nerve exercises have been widely used in various western medical conditions.
As a traditional therapy, acupuncture for anxiety and vagus nerve exercises have been widely used in various Western medical conditions.

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An alternative treatment for anxiety that dates back thousands of years involves inserting needles into pressure spots on the body called acupuncture. Acupuncture for anxiety and vagus nerve massage for stress and anxiety relief is being practiced in various behavioral treatment centers.
An alternative treatment for anxiety that dates back thousands of years involves inserting needles into pressure spots on the body called acupuncture. Acupuncture for anxiety and vagus nerve massage for stress and anxiety relief is being practiced in various behavioral treatment centers.

Acupuncture For Anxiety And Depression

Depression and anxiety are considered warning signs in Eastern philosophy because they are signs that something more serious is going on inside the body. Traditional Chinese medicine refers to this source of life energy as “qi,” and when it is out of balance, it causes sickness, which can show up as depression and anxiety.

Although acupuncture is not a first-line remedy, it can help with the symptoms of depression and anxiety when used as a part of an integrative strategy to make the entire body healthy.

A licensed practitioner places thin, thread-like needles into particular bodily nerve sites during acupuncture for anxiety and depression.

Each needle pokes and activates a sensory nerve, causing it to become active and begin communicating with the brain. Endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, are then released by the brain, causing the immune system to react and promoting healing throughout the body.

Acupuncture for anxiety treatments typically lasts about 30 minutes. The needles will then be positioned all over the body, and the practitioner will either manually move them or stimulate them with electrical currents to encourage the body’s neurochemical activity.

When working with a professional team, qualified practitioners will work with you to assist in reducing your symptoms because they are familiar with acupressure sites for anxiety and depression.

Acupuncture Benefits For Anxiety

The impact of acupuncture on anxiety has been the subject of numerous anxiety acupuncture treatment investigations. Acupuncture anxiety treatment may be effective in treating general anxiety, according to research, which has focused chiefly on generalized anxiety disorder.

A promising 2015 study discovered that acupuncture reduced symptoms in individuals with anxiety who did not react to other therapies, such as psychotherapy and medication. Ten acupuncture sessions of 30 minutes each were given to participants over 12 weeks. Even ten weeks after the end of the treatment, they saw a considerable decrease in their anxiety.

However, two assessments of previous studies—one from 2007 and the other from 2013—note that many aren’t trustworthy. Some, like the one previously described, had a relatively small number of players, while others were poorly constructed. However, these reviews also note that acupuncture does not appear to have a detrimental impact on anxiety.

Anxiety was found to be reduced by acupuncture in a more recent 2016 investigation on rats. According to the researchers, it may affect how the body initiates the fight-or-flight response. The data is promising for acupuncture as a practical and secure choice, even though we still need to learn more about how it impacts anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias. Acupuncture shouldn’t exacerbate your symptoms if you have anxiety that hasn’t responded to conventional treatments or if you want to try something different.

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Are There Any Risks?

Acupuncture for anxiety has some potential risks and side effects, but it won’t make your anxiety worse. By ensuring you see an authorized acupuncturist, you can prevent most complications. State-by-state licensing standards in the US vary, but the majority call for passing an exam administered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Soreness after a session is the main adverse impact that acupuncture for anxiety patients report. It sometimes leaves some bruising, but it usually goes away in a few hours. During acupuncture for anxiety sessions, some people experience sharp pains.

Acupuncturists with a license must use sterile, single-use needles. You can get an infection if your doctor doesn’t use adequately sterilized needles. According to the Mayo Clinic, these side effects are quite rare if you go to a skilled, licensed acupuncturist.

Some medical disorders should prevent people from receiving acupuncture for anxiety. Acupuncture should be avoided if you:

  • Have a pacemaker.
  • Have a bleeding condition, such as hemophilia.

It’s also essential to keep up with any ongoing anxiety treatment, including prescribed medications, while getting acupuncture for anxiety. You shouldn’t stop any medications without first discussing them with your doctor.

What are the Acupuncture Points For Anxiety?

You may be wondering where acupuncture needles go for anxiety; here are the acupuncture points for anxiety and insomnia. There are various acupuncture points for anxiety and depression. Acupuncture for anxiety points works by assisting the nervous system to achieve balance, alleviating stress and anxiety symptoms.

Point 1 “Shen Men or Heart”

This spot is where your pinky finger is on the inside of your wrist, in the crease. This acupuncture is excellent if anxiety prevents you from falling asleep or if you wake up in the middle of the night feeling anxious. This spot can be massaged to reduce heart rate and anxiety.

Point 2 “The Third Eye or Yintang

This spot is situated between the eyebrows and is well-known to yogis. Another helpful idea for insomnia is this. It is directly above the pineal gland, which aids in controlling melatonin. In addition to helping with insomnia, this point is renowned for easing restlessness and promoting general emotional well-being.

Point 3 “Pericardium”

This location is also on the inside of the forearm, near the center of the forearm, about two inches below the wrist crease. Although it is frequently used for nausea, it is also an excellent spot to open the chest and the heart, reversing the energy of contraction associated with anxiety.

Point 4 “Chest Center or Conception Vessel

Between the nipples, in the middle of the chest, is where this spot is situated. Many people’s experiences of anxiety include chest tightness or shortness of breath. This spot expands and soothes the chest while also calming the diaphragm.

Point 5 “Hundred Meetings or Governing Vessel”

Use both hands to draw a line from the middle of your head to the top of your ears to locate this spot. With rushing thoughts and existential distress, consider this point. This is a fantastic place to let go of worry if you clench your jaw when you feel anxious. This location can also increase yang energy, which alleviates grief and depression.

Ear Acupuncture Points For Anxiety

Your ear’s upper shell contains the heavenly gate point at the point of a hollow triangle. It is thought that stimulating this area can assist in reducing tension, anxiety, and insomnia. Ear acupuncture for anxiety still needs further evaluation. The Shen Men pressure point for acupuncture in ears for anxiety is roughly in the center top portion of the ear, a short way down from the top of the ear.

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Is Acupuncture Good For Anxiety?

Your acupuncturist will question you about the symptoms you hope to treat when you arrive for your first visit. They will also inquire about any medications you may be taking, your medical background, and any further health issues you may have. It would be best to use this opportunity to ask any last-minute queries concerning the procedure.

Long, thin needles will be inserted into your body’s various pressure sites during the session. Depending on the applied pressure spots, this can take 10 to 30 minutes. Moreover, your acupuncturist could twist the needles or give them an electrical pulse. Before carefully withdrawing the needles, they may leave them in for up to 20 minutes.

You probably won’t experience immediate gratification. The majority of acupuncture for anxiety sessions are meant to be repeated. Some people report seeing benefits immediately, while most see incremental adjustments over time with frequent visits.

Make sure you are aware of the associated cost of acupuncture for anxiety charges before you travel. Acupuncture for anxiety is sometimes covered by health insurance coverage for physical or mental health issues, such as anxiety.

Anxiety worse after acupuncture is usually rare. Acupuncture has some potential risks and side effects, but it won't make your anxiety worse. But it's always best to discuss acupuncture for anxiety option to your doctor.
Anxiety worse after acupuncture is usually rare. Acupuncture has some potential risks and side effects, but it won’t make your anxiety worse. But it’s always best to discuss acupuncture for anxiety option to your doctor.

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Anxiety and Depression Mental Health Treatment

The co-occurrence of depression and anxiety disorders is extremely common in primary care. The clinical implications of depression/anxiety comorbidity include the following:

  • Increased risk of suicide.
  • Increased risk of psychiatric hospitalization.
  • Increased disability.
  • Decreased compliance with treatment of medical illness.

Patients with depression/anxiety comorbidity tend to have more chronic and recurrent illnesses requiring long-term treatment. This puts a premium on medications, such as SSRIs, that have broad-spectrum efficacy (notably sertraline and paroxetine), expansive therapeutic windows, and favorable pharmacokinetic and drug-interaction profiles (such as sertraline and citalopram). SSRIs are well tolerated regarding side effects (such as weight gain), contributing to compliance with long-term treatment.

Does acupuncture work for anxiety? Unfortunately, despite the high prevalence and significant clinical implications of depression/anxiety comorbidity, very little prospective acupuncture for anxiety and depression research is available.

Having a relative or loved one with depression and anxiety can be stressful, and family members or caregivers may unintentionally act in ways that can worsen their loved one’s symptoms. Call We Level Up FL now for a free mental health assessment! In addition, for the substance abuse or dual diagnosis approach, our inpatient treatmentinpatient medical detox, and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at our affiliated facility. For more treatment resources, call We Level Up Florida about your symptoms, and we can help you determine the cause and develop a treatment plan.

Top 3 Can Acupuncture Help Anxiety FAQs

  1. How often should I get acupuncture for anxiety?

    Acupuncture treatments one to two times per week are commonly recommended for anxiety concerns, and the duration of therapy depends on how persistent the anxiety is, lifestyle variables, and if you can decrease your exposure to stressors that may be contributing to your stress and worry.

  2. Where to locate acupuncture for depression and anxiety near me?

    Acupuncture is not for everyone. If you choose to see an acupuncturist or if you’re looking for one, discuss it with your doctor first and find a licensed practitioner with proper training and credentials.

  3. Is acupuncture for anxiety effective?

    There’s some scientific evidence that acupuncture helps with certain symptoms of anxiety. However, researchers are still trying to determine the effect of acupuncture on specific types of anxiety, such as panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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[1] Armour M, Smith CA, Wang LQ, Naidoo D, Yang GY, MacPherson H, Lee MS, Hay P. Acupuncture for Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Clin Med. 2019 Jul 31;8(8):1140. DOI: 10.3390/jcm8081140. PMID: 31370200; PMCID: PMC6722678.

[2] Kai S, Nagino K, Ito T, Oi R, Nishimura K, Morita S, Yaoi R. Effectiveness of Moderate Intensity Interval Training as an Index of Autonomic Nervous Activity. Rehabil Res Pract. 2016;2016:6209671. DOI: 10.1155/2016/6209671. Epub 2016 Nov 10. PMID: 27957342; PMCID: PMC5121464.

[3] Depression Treatment » Drug Alcohol Addiction Rehab

[4]  Bandelow B, Michaelis S, Wedekind D. Treatment of anxiety disorders. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2017 Jun;19(2):93-107. doi: 10.31887/DCNS.2017.19.2/bbandelow. PMID: 28867934; PMCID: PMC5573566.

[5] NIMH – https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/social-anxiety-disorder-more-than-just-shyness

[6] Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors – National Center for Biotechnology InformationU.S. National Library of Medicine

[7] ‘Anxiety Disorders’ – National Institute Of Mental Health (Nimh.nih.gov)

[8] Psychopharmacology of anxiety disorders – National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine

[9]  Products – Data Briefs – Number 379 – September 2020 (cdc.gov) Depression – National Institute of Mental Health

[10] Coping with Stress – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention