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Health Tip

Acupuncture For Treating Depression

It is only in recent years that depression has been considered a medical rather than a psychological problem, and most of the treatments used involve drugs with varying levels of success and side effects. Acupuncture has been used in China since ancient times to treat almost all types of depression, although it has only been understood as such more recently.

What does acupuncture do?

The basic principle of acupuncture is that small needles, inserted strategically into well-defined points on the body, unblock the flow of good body energy or Chi, allowing it to flow freely to re-establish a balance. Modern science is still trying to understand the exact mechanisms by which acupuncture works, but the general understanding is that electrical impulses in the nerves can be altered or increased by acupuncture, causing certain chemical processes in the body to increase or decrease as required. This is exactly the same process as the use of synthetic drugs to alter brain chemistry, except it is completely natural, allowing the body to produce its own specifically targeted hormones and other chemicals.

Scientific evidence

Although the exact way that acupuncture achieves its results is not completely understood by modern science, what is indisputable is that it does actually work. Many patients suffering from depression have been shown in numerous studies to have considerable improvement after receiving acupuncture. One of the most definitive studies, carried out in Arizona in 1998 found that true acupuncture worked twice as well as acupuncture needles placed in random points around the body, and both worked significantly better than no treatment at all. Further studies concluded that medications in general worked less effectively than acupuncture, but the two treatments used in combination worked the best of all.

Scientific opinion is divided on a few points. Firstly one of the most significant improvements in patients suffering from depression happen when they are first convinced that they are being treated and that there is a good chance their condition will improve – a kind of placebo effect. Secondly the relatively low cost, very limited side effects, and the low stress method of administration of acupuncture has been shown in related studies to be a significant part of the overall feeling of wellness. Long term studies of the duration of patient recovery after acupuncture therapy has not so far been properly studied compared to depression medication.

Effective treatment

Despite these doubts, the scientific analysis has proven beyond question that acupuncture works effectively in the treatment of depression, and it should be seriously considered as a treatment as there is essentially no ‘down-side’.

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