Acupuncture for Depression: Can it really help?

Depression is a mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. This condition can be challenging, affecting a person’s quality of life, social relationships, and, in the worst-case scenario, leading to suicidal thoughts. Although, there are many treatments available for depression, acupuncture has become increasingly popular for treating this condition.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy where very thin needles are inserted into specific points of the body which are believed to be the life energy channels known as ‘meridians,’ to regulate the flow of energy known as ‘qi’. Acupuncture aims to stimulate the body’s natural healing process, which may help in treating several health conditions, including depression.

How Does Acupuncture Treat Depression?

Acupuncture may help treat depression by regulating the activity of the nervous system and stimulating the body’s natural painkillers. Research also suggests that acupuncture may help regulate the brain’s mood chemistry by stimulating the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which are believed to play a crucial role in regulating emotional states.

What Does the Research Show?

Several clinical trials have been conducted on the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating depression. A 2010 review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that acupuncture was more effective in treating depression than a placebo. Additionally, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found that acupuncture was effective in reducing symptoms of depression.

However, the research on acupuncture for depression remains conflicted, as another 2013 review published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that although acupuncture may be effective for treating depression, its effectiveness may not be superior to other treatments such as medication or psychotherapy.

What are the Risks Associated with Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by a licensed and trained practitioner. Some of the common risks associated with acupuncture may include soreness, bleeding, and bruising at the needle site. However, it’s important to note that acupuncture is not suitable for everyone, and some people may experience side effects such as dizziness, fainting, or infection.

What to Expect During Acupuncture Treatment?

Before starting acupuncture treatment, the practitioner will ask about your symptoms, medical history, and the severity of your depression. During the treatment, you will lie down, and the practitioner will insert thin needles into specific acupuncture points on your body. You may feel a slight tingling or numbness sensation but this shouldn’t be painful.

The treatment duration may vary depending on your condition’s severity and one’s overall mental and physical health. Typically, a session may last between 20-30 minutes, and you may require multiple sessions over weeks or months to experience significant improvements in your symptoms.

Final Thoughts

Acupuncture may be an alternative or supplementary treatment to medication, therapy, or other forms of treatment for depression. However, while the research on acupuncture for depression is promising, the effectiveness may vary from person to person, and it may not be effective for everyone.

Therefore, it’s important to discuss your options with your medical doctor or psychologist before starting acupuncture treatment. For people who are interested in Acupuncture for depression, it’s essential to find a licensed and trained acupuncture practitioner who can provide a safe and effective treatment plan tailored to your individual needs.


FAQs About Acupuncture for Depression

Q: What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves the insertion of thin needles into the skin at specific points on the body. The goal of acupuncture is to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes and restore balance to the flow of energy, or qi, in the body.

Q: How can acupuncture help with depression?

Acupuncture is believed to be effective for treating depression by regulating the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine. This can help improve mood, reduce anxiety, and alleviate other depressive symptoms. Acupuncture can also be used in combination with other therapies, such as talk therapy or medication, to enhance their effectiveness.

Q: Is acupuncture safe for people with depression?

Acupuncture is generally considered to be safe for most people, including those with depression. However, it is important to seek treatment from a qualified and licensed acupuncturist to ensure that the treatment is carried out safely and effectively. Additionally, acupuncture may not be appropriate for people with certain medical conditions, such as bleeding disorders or a compromised immune system, so it is important to discuss any medical concerns with your healthcare provider before beginning treatment.


1. Li, S., Fitzgibbon, B. M., Morton, N., & Grace, S. L. (2019). Acupuncture for depression: A review of clinical applications. Canadian Journal of Cardiology, 35(8), 999-1007.
2. Cao, H., Li, X., Liu, J., & An, Z. (2018). Acupuncture for depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 107, 70-83.
3. MacPherson, H., Vickers, A., Bland, M., Torgerson, D., Corbett, M., Spackman, E., & Richmond, S. (2013). Acupuncture for chronic pain and depression in primary care: A programme of research. Programme Grants for Applied Research, 1(3).