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Can acupuncture be used to treat depression?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

 

It is unclear whether acupuncture, a form of traditional Chinese medicine, helps in the treatment of depression. However, in one recent scientific review from Hong Kong, researchers found acupuncture effective in treating two types of depression: major depressive disorder and depression that occurs after stroke. Talk to your doctor or mental health provider before using acupuncture to treat your depression.

Acupuncture is a type of therapy that involves inserting needles into acupoints along the body's meridians. Electro-acupuncture uses needles that are electrically stimulated. Needle insertion is thought to increase levels of endorphins (hormones that block pain and promote general feelings of well-being) in the body and may stimulate the release of serotonin and catecholamines. Several clinical trials suggest that the effectiveness of electro-acupuncture in treating depression may be similar to that of amitriptyline (a tricyclic antidepressant). Additionally, electro-acupuncture may be associated with fewer side effects than is antidepressant medication.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.