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Acupuncture for Panic Disorder

Reduce Anxiety Symptoms with Acupuncture

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Updated April 16, 2014

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Acupuncture can help treat anxiety and panic disorder.

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Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is defined as a variety of unconventional practices and products used to promote health and healing. In recent years, CAM practices have grown in popularity as a way to treat mental health conditions, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other anxiety disorders. Some common CAM practices include progressive muscle relaxation, aromatherapy, yoga, and therapeutic massage.

Acupuncture is another type of CAM practice that may enhance personal wellness. Considered one of the most popular types of CAM, acupuncture is currently being used to treat a wide range of conditions. As acupuncture continues to grow in popularity, more research has been focused on this treatment for panic and anxiety symptoms.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a healing technique that originated thousands of years ago from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). This practice is based on the concept that medical conditions and mental health disorders are caused by an imbalance in energy. TCM theorizes that the body contains vital life energy called chi. When the body and mind are functioning properly, chi should flow through the body’s energy channels. These channels are called meridians and are located at certain points throughout the body. According to this tradition, sometimes chi becomes congested in different meridian pathways, leading to disease or disorders.

The goal of acupuncture is to restore the health and balance of these channels. During acupuncture treatment sessions, small needles are placed along specific areas of the body. Known as acupuncture points, these areas are thought to be where blockage of energy may be occurring. The needles come in a variety of thickness and length and are used to stimulate and open up blocked channels of energy.

Until the late 1990s, acupuncture needles were not recognized as tools to treat medical conditions. In 1997, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of acupuncture needles as medical devices. During that same year, acupuncture was recognized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the treatment of pain management and other medical conditions. The FDA currently regulates the standards for acupuncture needle use and safety.

Getting Treated with Acupuncture

If you are interested in treating your anxiety and panic symptoms through acupuncture, your first step will be to consult your doctor. It is also important that you receive these services from a licensed acupuncturist. Professional acupuncture partitioners can be located through websites, including the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. The use of acupuncture to treat medical and mental health conditions continues to rise, making it more readily available. Since is has been evaluated for effectiveness and is available through many hospitals, some insurance policies may cover some of your acupuncture treatments.

Clinical trials examining acupuncture for anxiety has shown some positive results. However, this research has many limitations, including small sample sizes and limited ways to measure outcomes. Acupuncturists and medical professionals are unclear exactly why it helps with anxiety, but research has noted that acupuncture appears to have a calming effect. More rigorous research studies need to be conducted in order to prove the effectiveness of acupuncture for anxiety disorders.

Not all CAM practices have been thoroughly researched for safety and effectiveness. Further information on the scientific evidence, safety, and risks of various CAM practices can be found at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. More conventional treatment options for panic disorder, such as medications and psychotherapy, have been more supported through research. However, acupuncture may be a helpful addition to your standard treatment plan. Acupuncture may be the additional treatment you need to help reduce stress, anxiety, and panic disorder symptoms.

Sources:

Horowitz, S. (2009). Acupuncture for Treating Mental Health Disorders. Alternative and Complimentary Therapies, 15(3), 135-141.

National Cancer Institue at the National Institutes of Health. Traditional Chinese Medicine. Accessed November 1, 2012.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine? Accessed November 1, 2012.

Pilkington, K. (2010). Anxiety, Depression and Acupuncture: A Review of the Clinical Research. Autonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical, 157, 91–95.

Wang, S-M, & Kain, Z. N. (2001). Auricular Acupuncture: A Potential Treatment for Anxiety. Anesthesia & Analgesia, 92, 548-553.

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