Everyone suffers from stress, but for some, stress can become a causal factor in our state of mind and health. In such cases, acupuncture may be helpful in the reduction of stress, as well as other conditions related to stress, such as depression and anxiety.
According to researchers Kristen Sparrow, M.D. and Brenda Golianu, M.D., “stress has negative impacts on the immune system, aging, mood, inflammation, and pain.” And acupuncture has been shown to help with all of those.
On this page, we’re going to take a look at how acupuncture works for stress through various research studies, what to expect, how many treatments you’ll need, the cost, and a few other complementary and alternative treatments that may be worth considering if stress is stressing you out.
Let’s get started by looking at what stress is and the myriad conditions and symptoms it can create…
What is Stress?
Stress levels influence multiple disease states. As more research is done to improve our understanding of the brain and specifically it’s role in disease, we see stress emerging as a major cause for depression and other mental disorders.
According to MedlinePlus, “stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous.” While “stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand,” it may be seen as a positive thing, while prolonged, chronic stress may be damaging to your health.
Stress is know to be associated with:
- Gastrointestinal issues
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Skin issues, like acne and eczema
- Menstrual issues
It may also worsen symptoms like:
- Chronic fatigue
- Lack of sleep or restlessness
- Sexual issues
- Weight loss or gain
- Use of drugs and alcohol
Does it Work?
Yes, acupuncture works for stress!
This study had students and faculty receiving one treatment of acupuncture a week for 12 weeks. At the end of the 12 weeks, the acupuncture group showed substantial decrease in perceived stress scores.
Although this study used mice, it did conclude that acupuncture was an effective treatment for stress-induced depressive-like behavior. And this study published in Medical Acupuncture concluded that acupuncture was effective for people suffering from hypertension, for which stress is a major issue.
How Many Sessions?
As with any therapy, you should consult with your acupuncturist to determine how many treatments and the duration of treatment. However, research participants who participated in just weekly acupuncture showed significant improvement in perceived stress, suggesting that a minimum of once treatment weekly for 12 weeks would demonstrate results.
Further, you may find that prolonged treatment is necessary if the cause of stress is not removed. For instance, a stressful job that remains a cause of mental or physical stress may warranty ongoing acupuncture on a regular basis.
Acupuncture may cost anywhere from $25 to $150 per session depending on your area and the practitioner. For a once a week treatment over a 12-week period, the cost would range from $300 (community acupuncture) to $1800 for high-level practitioners in a private practice setting.
Frequently asked questions
Does acupuncture work for stress?
Yes, acupuncture has been shown in research studies to help decrease the stress response in both the short and long term. This may have a positive effect on various other conditions that are affected by stress.
Does Medicare cover acupuncture for stress?
No, Medicare doesn’t cover acupuncture for stress. The only condition Medicare will cover acupuncture for is chronic low back pain.
How often should I get acupuncture for stress?
It is advisable to discuss the frequency of your acupuncture treatments for stress with a professional acupuncturist in your area. Studies have shown that as little as one treatment per week for 3 months can be effective in the treatment of stress.
Acupuncture Points for Stress
The Longhurst and Tjen-A-Looi protocol include the following points for hypertension
- ST 36, 37
- LI 10, 11
- PC 6, 7
Additional acupuncture points that may be helpful for stress are those published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies:
- GV 20
- HT 7
- PC 6
- Four Gates, CV 17, CV 6,
- ST 36 inserted unilaterally
- Auricular points
- Shen Men
- Point 0
There are many complementary and alternative therapies that may help with stress, including:
- Guided imagery and visualization
- Massage Therapy
- Yoga Therapy
Before getting started with acupuncture for stress, be sure to talk with your physician or medical professional about getting a proper medical diagnosis and what treatment recommendations are appropriate for your condition.
Work with a professional acupuncturist in your area to determine how acupuncture may best help you and the frequency of treatment that’s right for you.
Longhurst, J. C., & Tjen-A-Looi, S. (2013). Acupuncture regulation of blood pressure: two decades of research. International review of neurobiology, 111, 257–271. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-411545-3.00013-4
Schroeder, S., Burnis, J., Denton, A., Krasnow, A., Raghu, T. S., & Mathis, K. (2017). Effectiveness of Acupuncture Therapy on Stress in a Large Urban College Population. Journal of acupuncture and meridian studies, 10(3), 165–170. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jams.2017.01.002
U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Acupuncture. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/acupuncture
Yang, L., Zhao, Y., Wang, Y., Liu, L., Zhang, X., Li, B., & Cui, R. (2015). The Effects of Psychological Stress on Depression. Current neuropharmacology, 13(4), 494–504. https://doi.org/10.2174/1570159×1304150831150507