Stress & Anxiety
1 in 6 people in the UK will experience a common mental health issue every year.
The signs of stress can vary from one individual to the next. They may manifest physically as an illness, tiredness or as sore, tight muscles. Mental stress can result in depression, anxiety, mood swings, anger, frustration, confusion, or erratic sleep patterns.
Anxiety disorders include generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) & post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They can be chronic & cause considerable distress & disability; if left untreated, are costly to both the individual & society. As well as emotional symptoms such as worry, disturbed sleep, irritability & poor concentration, anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as
sweating, nausea, diarrhoea, dry mouth, palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, cold hands, muscle tension & aches.
There has been surprisingly little research on generalised or chronic anxiety; much more for situational anxiety, for example pre-operative, exam-related or associated with stressful work. The results have been consistently positive, with fewer side effects than conventional treatment, though the nature & quality of the studies is very variable according to recent reviews (Amorim 2018) & (Goyata 2016).
Situational anxiety trials have often used auriculotherapy for its convenience & effectiveness, such as this recent example with hospital nurses suffering high levels of stress (Kurebayashi 2017). Three different methods of stimulating the ear points were used alongside a control. Needle stimulation was most effective & reduced anxiety levels significantly more than for the control group.
PTSD is also an area where the BAcC has been research-active. A before & after observational study demonstrated very large improvements in the PTSD outcome measure, such that none of the patients completing the course of 6 sessions would be still be classed as having PTSD. The participants were all forces veterans. Acupuncture is also much used for treating veterans in the US, through the Veterans Authority, & for serving personnel within the military. In a systematic review of seven randomised trials there were significant differences favouring acupuncture (versus any comparator) on PTSD symptoms, at post-intervention & at longer follow-up (Grant 2018).
In general, research shows that stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, while acupuncture may activate the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates the relaxation response, thus promoting physical and emotional wellbeing.
The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) has been working with the charity Anxiety UK to gather generalised anxiety outcomes data from patients having a course of six acupuncture treatments as in usual practice. Preliminary results on 30 patients indicate that the effectiveness is at least as good as that seen with psychological therapies such as CBT.
Eleanor is currently a participating acupuncturist in a study for Acupuncture for Anxiety. If you are interested in trying acupuncture for anxiety & would like to know more information please don't hesitate to call or email.