A review of research in the Journal of Affective Disorders concludes that acupuncture increases the effectiveness of antidepressant medications in patients suffering from depression.* In plain English that means acupuncture makes antidepressant medications work better!
In our acupuncture clinic we have excellent results treating mild to moderate depression with acupuncture alone. However, many of our patients suffer from more severe depression and require medications. Unfortunately, these medications often fail to bring the relief needed. Acupuncture in combination with medications makes the medications work better. This review of research supports our own experience in this area.
Acupuncture and Antidepressant Medications
Acupuncture combined with antidepressant medications is safe and effective for the treatment of depression. A meta-analysis of thirteen quality randomized-controlled trials published in the Journal of Affective Disorders finds acupuncture combined with antidepressant therapy is “more effective than antidepressants alone.”
The therapeutic effects of the combination are rapid and the data finds acupuncture effective in reducing the adverse affects associated with antidepressant medications. Researchers note that “This meta-analysis reveals clear evidence of greater antidepressant activity with acupuncture combined with a(n) SSRIs compared with SSRIs alone.”
Acupuncture and SSRIs
SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are a class of antidepressants that increase levels of serotonin in the brain. The researchers note that acupuncture has been shown to stimulate neurotransmitters in the brain, increasing serotonin and norepinephrine levels. They add that acupuncture increases the “activity of serotonergic neurons in the reward system pathway of the brain.” They note, “Acupuncture treatments have also been shown to increase nocturnal melatonin secretion and reduce insomnia and anxiety.”
The researchers found that acupuncture’s ability to increase opiod peptides in the body may account for its ability to provide rapid relief from depression. They state that “acupuncture is capable of rapidly increasing the bodily release of endogenous opioid peptides associated with the production of pleasure and relief of anxiety and gastrointestinal discomfort.” All these benefits explain why acupuncture makes antidepressant medications work better.
Acupuncture As Standalone Treatment For Depression
The researchers note that acupuncture may be an effective standalone treatment modality for partial responders and nonresponders to antidepressant medications. They state, “acupuncture has the potential to be an effective, safe and well-tolerated monotherapy for depression and a viable augmentation agent for partial responders and nonresponders to antidepressant treatment.” They add that two other meta-analyses confirm these findings citing that acupuncture “significantly reduces depressive severity” and is safe and effective for post-stroke depression patients.
This last point supports our own experience that acupuncture works quite well as a stand alone treatment for mild and moderate depression. In fact, we are often able to have the patient ween off of their antidepressant medications during the course of their acupuncture treatment.
Acupuncture Points Used
The researchers analysed the trials and determined a set of acupuncture points that were most commonly used across all of the studies:
At Raleigh Acupuncture Associates we use many of these points in our treatments, selecting the most appropriate points for each patient based on their specific needs.
Topping the list for the most common points across all studies were acupuncture points GV20 and Yintang. The total sample size was 1,046 human subjects. The total number of acupuncture treatments ranged between 9 and 36. The majority of participants received acupuncture in the course of a six week treatment window.
Less Side Effects
Acupuncture provides significant advantages to those taking antidepressant medications by reducing adverse effects. The researchers found acupuncture effective in reducing nausea, weight gain and sexual disorders associated with antidepressant medication intake.
The researchers summarized, “combining acupuncture with antidepressant treatment may ameliorate depressive symptoms as well as control antidepressant side effects.” The researchers note that the data indicates that combining acupuncture and pharmacotherapy creates an additive effect; the total therapeutic effect is the sum of the two treatments added together.
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* Source: Chan, Yuan-Yu, Wan-Yu Lo, Szu-Nian Yang, Yi-Hung Chen, and Jaung-Geng Lin. “The benefit of combined acupuncture and antidepressant medication for depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Journal of Affective Disorders (2015).
Acupuncture Makes Antidepressant Medications Work Better
Come in and experience a treatment yourself. You will most likely feel a difference right away. All needles are sterile, single-use and hair thin. You will hardly feel them. Treatments are relaxing.
Acupuncture is an effective tool in the treatment of depression, with and without medications. If you have additional questions please don’t hesitate to call us. Acupuncture makes antidepressant medications work better.
What our Clients are Saying
I was feeling depressed and stressed because I didn’t like my job and didn’t know what to do with my life. I started taking Lexipro but it really affected my libido so I stopped taking it. I tried acupuncture because my husband said it helped him when he was depressed years earlier (before he met me!) I went to Raleigh Acupuncture and started treatments. They were really knowledgeable about Chinese medicine and explained how the body gets stuck in depression, and how the acupuncture gets the body unstuck. They really listened to me and helped me figure stuff out. I started feeling less depressed. Then I actually started getting more clear about what I wanted to do with my life career-wise. I decided to go back to school and now I’m almost done with my degree. I haven’t felt depressed at all since I was treated and I’m really excited about my life. I’m very grateful to them for being such great healers and such a great support to me when I really needed it.
I had very severe depression after my son was born. The doctors put me on medication, which helped, but I still had no motivation and felt very sad. I tried acupuncture and it really improved my mood. I would say that within four weeks of starting treatment I was no longer depressed. My motivation returned, I was able to get out of bed in the morning ready to go, and I started enjoying my son for the first time. I think the combination of medications and acupuncture worked great for me. I appreciate the caring and skill at Raleigh Acupuncture and recommend them highly for treating depression.