Feeling blue, grieving or experiencing strong feelings of sadness are nothing out of the ordinary. Depression is more than that. It is long, intense periods of overwhelming feelings during which a person loses interest in things that were once sources of happiness and contempt. People with depression also experience stress, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, loss of appetite or quite the opposite, an overbearing increase in appetite, insomnia, high blood pressure and more. If left without treatment, this condition can pose very serious health risks.
It is also not uncommon. Estimates show that around 350 million people worldwide are battling symptoms of depression. This translates into 5% of the global population who are challenged by something that’s more than just sadness and something that demands medical attention. Fortunately, clinical depression is a treatable illness with most common treatment pathways involving medications such as antidepressants or counselling. For patients who are conservative or are simply not responding well to their treatment, it is not generally known that other options are available. Therapies such as acupuncture can play a pivotal role here.
Acupuncture is a type of alternative medicine involving extremely thin needles being inserted throughout the body with the objective to trigger pressure points. By doing so, muscle tightness is relieved, QI flow is stimulated and balance in the body restored. One particular study published in 2013 put the spotlight on the benefits of acupuncture in people with depression. To everyone’s astonishment, results showed that depression patients can benefits from acupuncture as much as they do from counselling.
American researchers concluded that one in three patients showed fewer or no signs of depression symptoms after just three months of either acupuncture or counselling, or the both combined. 755 people with moderate to severe depression were recruited for the study. This marked an important milestone in acupuncture studies being one of the largest of its kind. Participants were randomized in three groups:302 received 12 weekly acupuncture sessions, the second group of 302 received weekly counselling sessions and the remaining 151 received usual care only.
Patients from the first two groups reported significant improvements in their condition and had an overall pain reduction. However promising these results may be, the researchers stressed the importance of medicines as well. Since no two depression patients are alike, what this study has done was to shed light on a new care option for people who have not been responding to their current standard of care. They also show potential as complimentary therapies to ensure in the future patients can have an integrated treatment plan and that each individual case can receive a 360 approach.
Acupuncture is non-invasive and the risks are close to inexistent, especially if the acupuncturist is certified and trained to handle such cases. Soreness, discomfort or infections are the risks associated with accessing unspecialized acupuncture services.
There is a lot of valuable evidence available to back up the benefits acupuncture has in people suffering from depression and anxiety. But there is still more that needs to be done to make sure an important treatment gap is filled.