Acupuncture eases symptoms of severe depression

Posted on 31/10/2013.

Acupuncture eases symptoms of severe depression

Acupuncture therapy combined with anti-depressants has been found to relieve symptoms of depression more effectively than drugs alone, a British study found.

New research, conducted by Dr Hugh MacPherson and colleagues from the University of York, found patients who had acupuncture alongside their antidepressants improved more after three months than those who simply took medication.
Their symptoms reduced on the same scale as those who had counselling alongside their normal treatment. 

The researchers felt the study was of great importance as many patients would like to be offered non-pharmacological treatment options such as acupuncture or counselling.
The vast majority of patients with depression are only offered anti-depressants, despite the fact they are ineffective for 60% of people

The study included 755 men and women with moderate to severe depression. The patients were divided in groups to receive up to 12 weekly sessions of acupuncture plus usual care (302 patients), up to 12 weekly sessions of counselling plus usual care (302 patients) or usual care alone (151 patients).

The findings, published in the PLoS MedicineJournal, found that the 2,000-year-old Chinese method improved symptoms for up to six months.

It is thought that it alleviates symptoms such as overwhelming sadness and hopelessness, by stimulating the release of endorphins and other "feel-good" chemicals.
Mandy Laing, a qualified member of the British Acupuncture Council comments: "For some anxiety sufferers, life is extremely tough. A lot of people don't realise that this condition can cause a considerable amount of stress and disability for the person.

"Traditional acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment choice that involves placing extremely fine, sterile needles (the size of a shaft of hair) painlessly at specific points on the body.
For people who are clinically depressed, feelings of severe sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, and worthlessness can last for months and years. And affected individuals lose interest in activities they used to enjoy and sometimes have physical symptoms such as disturbed sleep, leaving many unable to work. 

This research could open up new treatment options for those who suffer from moderate or severe depression but Dr MacPherson, who is trained in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, said further research needs to be conducted to determine whether acupuncture could help with mild depression.

To find a practitioner in your area call the British Acupuncture Council on 020 8735 0400 or visit