Written by Ralph Miller, MBA, BS, CCHT, RMT, CYT, CPLC — Editor Sahar Miller, MA, BA — Medically Reviewed By — Updated on 10/21/20
Anxious woman cups her head in her hands

Sweat pours from your body, your heartbeat pounding in your ears. You look around nervously, does anyone notice? Why do you have to feel this way? Someone’s approaching you…but now your hands are shaking, your mouth so dry, you can’t even speak…

If you suffer from anxiety, this scene may seem all too familiar. And while there are a variety of treatments you may have tried in the past, or others you’re still considering, acupuncture may be something you’re interested in. 

Below, we’ll review how acupuncture can help treat anxiety, including whether or not it works, how it works, some of the benefits and risks to consider, how many sessions you’ll need and an idea of what to expect when it comes to cost.

Does it Work?

The biggest question on everyone’s mind is: does acupuncture work for anxiety?  While there is anecdotal evidence and lots of stories about acupuncture being used for people with anxiety, we also want to look at the research studies being done.

And the science says: it’s promising!

Just this year, a team of 14 researchers took a look at 10 acupuncture studies related to anxiety. Although seven of the studies reviewed showed a positive outcome for those using acupuncture to treat anxiety, the researchers also stated that the methodologies used in those studies were weak, and therefore higher-quality research should be performed to confirm acupuncture’s effectiveness for treating anxiety.

In addition, according to this review of acupuncture research, “Acupuncture is now commonly used in clinical practice, and is advantageous because it is…less dependence-inducing (and thereby safer) than standard psychoactive drugs.”

So you shouldn’t be surprised if your doctor or therapist recommends trying acupuncture for anxiety.

In fact, treatment facilities like Sierra Tucson are using acupuncture in their clinical practice, stating that they’ve seen “remarkable, short-term effectiveness of acupuncture with counseling and other therapies,” to help reduce anxiety, improve mental stability, and reduce or eliminate the need for medication.

How Does it Work?

An acupuncture appointment usually begins as a visit to a doctor. The acupuncturist may ask some questions about how the client has been feeling and why they made the office visit. The practitioner will perform a few other checks and ask follow up questions.

The patient will lie down on a massage table then the acupuncturist inserts very small thin needles into specific pressure points in the body. The patient is instructed to relax for about 20 minutes while the pressure points are stimulated and so that the body can produce a response. When the treatment is completed, the acupuncturist removes all the needles. The entire process should be painless.

Success Rates

Due to poor methodology and lack of data to draw from, scientists are not yet able to publish definitive success rates.

For Pregnancy and Anxiety

According to this 2012 study conducted in Brazil, researchers concluded that their results showed acupuncture helped relieve symptoms of anxiety for women undergoing IVF (in vitro fertilization treatments). Which can in turn help a woman get pregnant as stress can affect fertility.

Anxiety in Children

Pediatric anxiety is also an area where some people are turning to acupuncture. A 2018 pilot study was conducted in Australia and published in the Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health. Scientists were trying to determine whether or not acupuncture could help children with anxiety. Their findings were promising but mentioned that additional research needed to be conducted as there are very few studies specifically on this specific topic.

Anxiety in Veterans

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs list acupuncture as one of the personal care approaches that may help veterans suffering from anxiety. In addition, it also suggests taking a holistic approach, to include changes in eating habits, sleep, personal growth, and spirituality. Other alternative treatments include energy movement practices like qigong, tai chi, and yoga, as well as mind-body approaches like meditation, biofeedback, and hypnosis.


There are many benefits to using acupuncture for anxiety. These include:

  • Painless
  • Non-addictive, drug-free
  • Low risk of side effects
  • Relaxing

Pros and Cons

The pros of using acupuncture to help with anxiety related to pregnancy include:

  • Pro: relatively low cost depending on practice and health insurance
  • Pro: drug-free
  • Pro: non invasive
  • Pro: relaxing
  • Pro: can be used in conjunction with other fertility methods

Some of the cons may include:

  • Con: rarely covered by health insurance
  • Con: If you have a fear of needles, this treatment may not be for you
  • Con: science has not confirmed acupuncture will help you get pregnant

Safety and Side Effects

Acupuncture does have certain side effects. When you use acupuncture for anxiety, you may encounter the following side effects:

  • Very small amount of bleeding
  • Possible bruising from insertion sites

How Many Sessions?

Your acupuncturist will recommend a number of sessions based upon his or her initial assessment of your symptoms. Oftentimes, clients will be able to feel the results from the first session, but it is important to keep your future appointments and communicate with your practitioner on how you are feeling. It might be helpful to keep a journal on how you feel before, during, and after receiving acupuncture as a reference on how well your treatments are going.


The cost of acupuncture varies depending on your area and the individual practitioner. Here are some general pricing to help you get a feel for the cost of acupuncture. Keep in mind that you are likely to need more than just one treatment for anxiety.

Midwest- $55 for initial appointment then $35 for additional appointments

New York – $120 for initial appointment then $65 for additional appointments

L.A. – $195 for initial appointment then $125 for additional appointments

Co-occuring Conditions

Many people suffer from a variety of conditions in addition to anxiety. These may include panic attacks, depression, insomnia, pain, nausea, detox.

Anxiety and Depression

Someone suffering from anxiety is often dealing with depression at the same time. Although anxiety and depression are two different diagnoses, they often have similar symptoms and treatment protocols.

Learn more about acupuncture for depression.

Pain, Nausea and Anxiety

When someone is experiencing anxiety symptoms, oftentimes they will also feel nauseous and get painful headaches. Someone suffering from a long term illness may experience anxiety from any pain they feel, fearing their condition is worsening.

Learn more about acupuncture for pain.

Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Panic attacks and anxiety share symptoms of increased heart rate and shortness of breath.

While panic attacks happen suddenly, anxiety symptoms build up a bit slower. Learn more about acupuncture for panic attacks.

Learn more about acupuncture for panic attacks

Anxiety and Insomnia

If someone is experiencing anxiety, they may have trouble sleeping. Worrying can keep someone from being able to sleep restfully or even being able to sleep at all. Consequently, insomnia can cause anxiety, leaving someone caught in a cycle of anxiety and insomnia if left untreated.

Learn more about acupuncture for insomnia.

Anxiety and Detox

Detoxing from serious addictions should be supervised by medical professionals. When someone is detoxing, they will likely experience anxiety as they detach from their addiction both mentally and physically.

Learn more about acupuncture for detox.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does acupuncture work for anxiety?

Yes, it helps relieve symptoms of anxiety for most people.

What if I have severe anxiety? Will acupuncture work?

Acupuncture can work for severe anxiety. Each client is different and success depends on how debilitating the symptoms are for the client.

Does acupuncture work for anxiety and panic attacks?

Yes, both anxiety and panic attacks can be helped by acupuncture. It’s important to continue with the sessions as acupuncture isn’t a quick fix.

Does acupuncture work for anxiety and depression?

Yes, both anxiety and depression can be eased with acupuncture.

Does laser acupuncture work for anxiety?

Currently, laser acupuncture is mainly used for pain relief.

What are the success rates when using acupuncture for anxiety?

It truly depends on the person. Some people see results fast, while others may need additional sessions that can range from weeks to years.

How many acupuncture sessions will I need?

It truly depends on the person. Some people see results fast, while others may need additional sessions that can range from weeks to years.

How much will acupuncture for anxiety cost?

Costs range from a few sessions ($200USD) to years ($5,000+USD)

How long does it take for acupuncture to work for anxiety?

It can take multiple sessions. The exact number is to be determined by your acupuncturist.

Can ear seeds help me with anxiety?

Ear seeds can be a beneficial alternative to acupuncture. They work by applying mild pressure to specific points on the ear.

Where are the pressure points for anxiety?

  • Hall of Impression – on the forehead between the eyebrows
  • Pericardium 6 – on the forearm about three finger widths above the wrist
  • Great Tower Gate – where the ribs meet in the chest
  • Heavenly Gate – in the upper hollow of the ear lobe
  • Union Valley – in between the thumb and the index finger

Are there side effects?

Side effects are very minimal. You might get a tiny bit of blood or bruising from the needles, but both are not too common.

Acupuncture points for anxiety

  • Hall of Impression – on the forehead between the eyebrows
  • Pericardium 6 – on the forearm about three finger widths above the wrist
  • Great Tower Gate – where the ribs meet in the chest
  • Heavenly Gate (Shen Men) – in the upper hollow of the ear lobe
  • Union Valley – in between the thumb and the index finger

Ear points for anxiety

  • Heavenly Gate or Shen Men – in the upper hollow of the ear lobe

Other CAM treatments to help with anxiety

These healing modalities may also be effective for anxiety. In many cases, you may combine various treatments. For example, doing Yoga and meditation daily may greatly increase the effectiveness of your acupuncture treatments while simultaneously helping to reduce anxiety.  Ask your acupuncturist for an herbal remedies or nutritional advice they may recommend in conjunction with your acupuncture treatments. And getting a good night’s rest is important for your overall health, as well as improving mood and reducing anxiety.

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Chinese Herbal Medicine
  • Breath Work
  • Balanced Nutrition
  • Restful Sleep

Buchanan TM, Reilly PM, Vafides C, et al. Reducing anxiety and improving engagement in health care providers through an auricular acupuncture intervention. Dimens Crit Care Nurs 2018;37:87–96.

Choi SY, Kim GW. Acupuncture for anxiety: A protocol for a systematic review of controlled trials. Medicine (Baltimore). 2018;97(14):e0266. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000010266

Isoyama, D., Cordts, E. B., Angela Mara Bentes De Souza Van Niewegen, Waldemar De Almeida Pereira De Carvalho, Matsumura, S. T., & Barbosa, C. P. (2012). Effect of Acupuncture on Symptoms of Anxiety in Women Undergoing in Vitro Fertilisation: A Prospective Randomised Controlled Study. Acupuncture in Medicine30(2), 85–88. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2011-010064

Jang SH, Kim DI, Choi MS. Effects and treatment methods of acupuncture and herbal medicine for premenstrual syndrome/premenstrual dysphoric disorder: systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014;14:11. Published 2014 Jan 10. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-11

Leung, B., Takeda, W., & Holec, V. (2018). Pilot study of acupuncture to treat anxiety in children and adolescents. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health54(8), 881–888. doi: 10.1111/jpc.13910


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