In line with National Complementary Therapy Week 2023, My Mind News investigates recently published research which concludes that acupuncture can positively impact those with mental health conditions.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a form of traditional medicine, first developed in China and in constant use there for over 2,000 years. Over the past 50 years, acupuncture has enjoyed increasing recognition in many Western countries. In 2021 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended the treatment for primary chronic pain.
Research into acupuncture as a medical treatment has grown exponentially in the past 20 years, increasing at twice the rate of research into conventional biomedicine. Over this period, there have been over 13,000 studies conducted in 60 countries, studying a wide variety of clinical areas, including pain, cancer, pregnancy, stroke, mood disorders, sleep disorders, and inflammation, to name a few.
The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC), the UK’s largest professional body, explains that there is no mind-body split in traditional acupuncture. In other words, life’s physical, emotional, and mental aspects are seen as interdependent.
The mind-body is seen as a system, and understanding the relationship between the various parts is central to making a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Traditional acupuncture employs single-use, sterile microfine needles (much more gentle than you might imagine!) to adjust the flow of ‘qi’ (pronounced ‘chee’), which in scientific terms means affecting biochemical and neurological signaling pathways.
A session of acupuncture typically lasts for around 45 minutes, and usually, a course of at least five treatments is recommended.
Mental health and acupuncture
Acupuncture has long since been associated anecdotally with reducing symptoms of depression and improving mental health. More recently, acupuncture has been in the scientific spotlight to understand its many benefits, with a 2013 landmark study demonstrating acupuncture was as effective as counseling in significantly reducing depression.
The most recent study by Julie Ann Reynolds and Dr. Sue Harrington at The Acupuncture Academy in Leamington Spa, England, published its results in The European Journal of Oriental Medicine.
The study, entitled ‘Student Mental Health: An Acupuncture Pragmatic Intervention Service,’ has produced some compelling conclusions on acupuncture’s positive effect on young people.
Mental Health of Students
My Mind News reported in January that 54% of students reported having moderate, moderately severe, or severe symptoms of depression. Unsurprisingly, students are recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and now have food shortages and price increases to contend with.
Over half of the student population conceal their mental health problems due to the fear of stigmatization.
For this research, students self-assessed themselves for levels of depression and anxiety. At the beginning of the study, 68% rated themselves as having moderate to high levels of anxiety, and 69% had moderate to severe depression.
Within three treatments, students were seeing results, and after a course of eight treatments, 85% reported feeling better or much better, and 84% planned to continue with acupuncture. The research found clinically significant improvements in the students’ symptoms, activities, and general wellbeing over the treatments and at one-week follow-up.
All students advised that they would recommend acupuncture to a friend, and 89% thought that making such treatment available to all students would be helpful and supportive.
One of the authors, Julie Reynolds, said,
“The results were exciting and confirmed the benefits of acupuncture for mental health. We saw a clinically significant reduction in symptoms for the young people in this study.”
Meanwhile, study practitioner Michelle Venter suggested that,
“We all urge the NHS and universities to consider acupuncture as a cost-effective option for students and young people more generally that will make a considerable difference to their lives”
To conclude, while this research involved students, there is no doubt that acupuncture should be seriously considered as an option for the wider general population as, for many people, it can significantly reduce their symptoms of mental health conditions in a very short period.
My Mind News would love to hear about our reader’s acupuncture experience and whether they have considered trying it to support their mental health symptoms.
With special thanks
My Mind News would like to thank Jenny at Revive Acupuncture for connecting us with the authors of this study and raising awareness of this vital research.
Jenny specializes in offering Five Element Acupuncture for various conditions, including mental health concerns, pre-conception health, fertility, women’s health, and pediatrics.
Jenny can be contacted via email if you have any questions or would like to book a session with her.