One of the most frequent questions I get asked about acupuncture is what kinds of conditions it can treat. Most people are well-aware of the benefits of acupuncture for relieving acute and chronic pain. However, many are surprised to learn that acupuncture and Chinese medicine has a lot to offer people who are struggling with mental health conditions.
At Acupuncture in the Park, we see a great number of patients who struggle with anxiety. Many have other health conditions, but some seek out acupuncture simply to help them calm down, slow down, relieve their anxious symptoms, and even help with panic attacks.
As a new acupuncturist, I used a combination of acupuncture points that included one needle in each ear for my patients with anxiety. I got good results, but felt I could do better. Several years ago, I began using a protocol that involved inserting five needles in each ear along with appropriate points on the patient’s body. I found that including a set of needles in each ear offered more effective and incredibly calming effects that began during the treatment and lasted for days (and for some, weeks) afterward.
Why stick needles in someone’s ear? Well, in Chinese medicine, your ear is considered a microsystem, in which you use one part of the body to treat another. Another healing microsystem commonly used throughout the world is foot reflexology. Ear acupuncture works because stimulating those points trigger electrical impulses from your ear to your brain. So, for example, if you had back pain, I could insert a needle in a place in your ear that corresponds with your back to help relieve the pain.
Research studies have documented the calming effects of ear acupuncture in the treatment of anxiety. They found that ear acupuncture exerts “a specific and measurable effect” in reducing anxiety before dental appointments, surgery, and during ambulance transport.
The point prescription that I use on my patients was initially developed for the treatment of addictions, but has found to be equally effective in relieving stress and anxiety. In fact, ear acupuncture (the same protocol that I use) is currently being used to effectively treat post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans returning from combat.
An additional benefit of auricular acupuncture is that I can send my patients home with small beads or seeds stuck to tiny adhesive patches placed in their ears that continue to stimulate the appropriate points for several days after their acupuncture session. The bottom line is that ear acupuncture is a safe, effective, and drug-free to decrease your anxiety.