Updated September 15, 2020

Acupuncture has been known to have a multitude of benefits for the body. Many people who try it, even those who were originally skeptical, end up loving the effects of acupuncture. It’s been reported to help with pain treatment, overall wellness, and stress management in addition to many other mental and physical conditions.


But going off on that last point, can acupuncture provide mental health benefits, as well as physical ones? Research is continuing to be carried out, but there’s a lot of promising potential. Studies have shown that acupuncture for depression, stress, and other mental health conditions is safe and effective. See how acupuncture can make a difference in your life, and schedule an appointment with Scott Family Health in Fort Collins and Loveland today!


Research From NCBI

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) created an evidence map based on research on the effects of acupuncture for medical health. The following mental health conditions were studied:


  • Alcohol dependence
  • Cocaine addiction
  • Opiate addiction
  • Drug addiction
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Schizophrenia
  • Depression
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome


For each condition, they sought to determine whether acupuncture had any effect on improving symptoms, and if so, to what degree. They found that, out of all of these conditions, only alcohol dependence and cocaine addiction did not see an effect from acupuncture. Every other condition saw at least some evidence that acupuncture for mental health had an effect, even if that evidence was unclear.


Interestingly enough, depression and schizophrenia were shown to have some of the strongest potential positive effects from acupuncture. When acupuncture was used to treat anxiety and PTSD, there was also evidence of potential positive impact.

relaxing acupuncture session for stress


The Effects of Lowered Heart Rate

Ask anyone who’s received acupuncture, and they’ll tell you how relaxed they feel. Some people even fall asleep while on the table — if this happens to you and you wake up drooling, know that it’s completely normal! We’re used to it at Scott Family Health.


A study was conducted on 36 mildly depressed or anxious patients, who were randomly sorted into two groups. One group received true acupuncture services. The second group was a sham — the patients still received acupuncture, but at faux points that are believed to have no positive effect.


The results showed that the true acupuncture group had significantly lowered heart rates, measured both at five minutes and 15 minutes after the treatment. The second group or “sham” group showed no change.


When the body is in a state of fear, anxiety, or stress, the heart rate goes up. For many of us, we’re in such a constant or near-constant state of anxiety or stress, due to jobs, commitments, money, and life as a whole. One of the first things that we’re told to do when feeling anxious is to just breathe. This is because slowing down our heart rate can induce a state of calm, and have us feeling back to normal.


As shown in the aforementioned study, acupuncture is proven to slow down heart rates. This can leave us feeling relaxed, even 15 minutes after the treatment has ended. Acupuncture isn’t just a break from reality, it’s also a way for us to calm and re-center ourselves for the stressful moments that inevitably lie ahead. One short acupuncture for stress reduction session can have lasting effects, leaving you feeling better for days or even weeks.


Acupuncture for Stress Reduction


Studies have shown that acupuncture is also an excellent way to relieve stress and tension in the body.  Acupuncture needles stimulate the release of serotonin, a hormone that has anti-depressant and analgesic effects.  The release of serotonin will result in mental relaxation and a feeling of calmness. Acupuncture also helps to stimulate the body’s central nervous system. This stimulation plus the release of serotonin can actually affect how you feel and experience stress, pain, and anger.


stressed young man


Acupuncture won’t get rid of whatever is causing your stress, of course, but as you relax, you may find your mind becomes more calm and clear. The solution to that stressful work situation or relationship issue may suddenly become clear. Stress can cloud your judgment and make it hard to concentrate. Acupuncture for stress relief can leave you relaxed, focused, and ready to face the day.


There is medical evidence to back this up, too. Studies have shown that acupuncture stimulates the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus, and the body’s electromagnetic signaling system. The result is similar to how opioids affect the body, but it’s completely natural and safe. Another study published in the Medical Acupuncture journal looked at how acupuncture affected heart rate variability. Over time, a number of patients experienced an increase in their HRV, which indicated that they were becoming less stressed.


Acupuncture is safe and has little to no side effects.  In fact, the most common side effect is deep relaxation!  With regular acupuncture visits, you will most likely be sleeping more soundly and experiencing increased energy levels. Many people find that they feel less stressed after just one acupuncture appointment, even if they were feeling a little stressed about the actual treatment. Acupuncture may involve placing needles in the skin, but it is painless. The needles are so thin they can barely be felt. There’s no need to feel stressed at all before your appointment. Even if you do, once the session is underway, you’ll find yourself relaxing.


Acupuncture to Balance Your Moods


If you or someone you know suffers from frequent irritability or mood swings, consider trying acupuncture to balance your mood. Just as serotonin helps with stress, it can also help to balance your emotions. In fact, many people who are irritable feel that way because of stress. Most people report feeling very relaxed and at ease after an acupuncture session, and with weekly sessions, you will start to feel more relaxed and balanced overall. Acupuncture can help reduce irritability, help with insomnia, and get rid of headaches. It is a safe method to help with these conditions and can be ideal for those who want to avoid medication.


Many people who have dealt with generalized anxiety disorder have found that acupuncture can help reduce their anxiety. In fact, acupuncture may work for patients who have had little to no luck with medication or with other forms of therapy. The dopamine, norepinephrine, and endorphins that are released will help put you in a more positive mood. Again, these endorphins are all-natural and produced by the body, so you get a natural high without any side effects. You’ll find yourself feeling much better, and your emotions will be more stable and grounded.


Even people who come into our Loveland and Fort Collins offices to receive treatment for pain-related issues note the added benefit of sleeping better and feeling less irritable with regular acupuncture sessions. Sleep is very important for mood, stress, concentration, anxiety, and much more. Without a good night’s sleep, it’s very difficult to work effectively and efficiently. Acupuncture can help you get the sleep you need to succeed.


Battle Depression with Acupuncture


Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective tool in battling depression, too. Many people don’t like the side effects that come along with most anti-depressants, and acupuncture is a great, drug-free option to help control your symptoms. Research by professionals from the Advanced Integrative Rehabilitation and Pain Center in Washington, DC, compared a number of other studies done in regards to depression and acupuncture. They determined that these studies presented high-level evidence that acupuncture is a viable treatment in depression.


depressed man


Numerous other studies have looked at how acupuncture compares to medication. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published an article that looked at how a special type of acupuncture, electroacupuncture, compared to the use of fluoxetine, the generic name of Prozac. The results showed that it was just as effective while having none of the side effects.


Most individuals with depression are advised to start out with about 4-6 acupuncture sessions in about 3 weeks’ time to help even out serotonin levels, improve sleep, and calm the mind. With regular treatments, acupuncture can be a viable and relaxing treatment option. The treatment will leave you feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. You will begin to feel more centered and grounded and may even be able to cut down on your anti-depressants with your doctor’s approval.


What Else Can Acupuncture Do For You?

In addition to helping with stress, anxiety, and depression, acupuncture has a number of other benefits. It can help reduce physical pain in your neck, bank, and joints. This pain can come from poor posture or from holding your body in the same position for long periods of time. It can help boost your energy, relieve pain from headaches, and even help with eye strain.


Relief from physical pain can help with stress, mood, and mental health, too. For example, one way you can use acupuncture to balance your mood is to use it for headache relief. You can’t be in a good space mentally if you’re often in physical pain, after all.



Try Acupuncture at Scott Family Health

If you’re a skeptic towards acupuncture or are just nervous about being poked with needles (though we promise, it’s nothing like that), you should give us a call! This could be the stress reliever and mental health booster you never knew you needed. If you’ve always been curious about acupuncture NOW is the time to try it.


Our experienced and licensed acupuncturists will walk you through every step, and if you’re uncomfortable at any point, we’ll help you through it. And as always, if something doesn’t feel right, you can always let us know and we’ll stop — our job is to make you more comfortable and less stressed and we will always listen to you.


See how acupuncture for depression, as well as chiropractor visits, massage, and physical therapy, can make a difference in your mental health. If you are going through a major life change or stress, remember to take care of you!  Even one acupuncture session can help you. Please contact our office for more information or to make an appointment at 970-663-2225.