May is mental health awareness month, and AIM is providing you with scientifically-supported information and treatment ideas all month long. The fundamental belief of integrative and functional medicine is treating the whole body to achieve optimal wellness, including the mind. Unfortunately, the majority of those with mental health conditions do not actually receive proper treatment. Inadequate treatment may affect the way someone thinks, acts, and functions in their daily activities, so it’s essential to seek proper therapies. We encourage a variety of care options for those suffering from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, dementia, ADHD, schizophrenia, OCD, autism and PTSD.
Mental Health and Acupuncture
We know that mental health is influenced by genes, environment, and lifestyle. Given that there are a variety of influences on mental health, treatment options must be multifaceted, rather than solely using medication. Additional options can include therapy, massage, supplements, nutrition counseling, and acupuncture, which have increased popularity to regain mental clarity and energy. Acupuncture is the ancient art and science of inserting very fine needles into specific points on the skin to relieve a variety of medical problems. This method encourages the body to naturally heal itself and improve its functioning. Acupuncture can help treat current issues, help heal previous problems, and help prevent new ones from occurring.
Often used for treating physical pain, acupuncture is also a great therapy for those suffering from mental health disorders. A study from the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology divided 150 pregnant women with major depressive disorder into three groups: acupuncture specific for depression, generalized acupuncture, and massage therapy and were given treatment for eight weeks. Women who received depression-specific acupuncture had a greater rate of decreased symptom severity compared with both groups. The authors concluded that acupuncture could be a viable treatment option for depression during pregnancy.
Improving PTSD Symptoms
Another study looked at service members with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) split into two groups: usual PTSD care and usual PTSD care with eight 60-minute acupuncture sessions conducted twice weekly. They measured symptoms throughout 12 weeks of study using a PTSD checklist and clinician-administered PTSD scale. Average improvement in PTSD severity was significantly higher in those who received acupuncture than those with usual care alone. Acupuncture was also associated with significant improvements in depression, pain, and physical and mental health functioning. The authors concluded that while this was a small sample size of 55 people, acupuncture was effective for reducing PTSD symptoms.
Teresa Esterle, medical doctor and acupuncturist at AIM, commonly uses acupuncture to treat mental health symptoms and disorders. “Acupuncture is a way to balance energy as described in Chinese Medicine. Effects are cumulative, and frequency varies from person to person. It may take four to five treatments until you notice improvement, some less and some more.” Dr. Teresa is a pediatrician and works frequently with kids who have ADHD. “There are acupuncture techniques that don’t require needles which is a great option for young children who have depression, anxiety, and attention issues.” While it may take time to achieve symptomatic improvement, she notes that once achieved, it’s obvious when it’s been too long between visits. “People don’t typically have a specific moment in time when symptoms drastically improve, but I often hear patients come back 6 to 8 weeks after their last acupuncture treatment and say they will never wait that long between visits again.”
The Difference At AIM
It’s important that you receive acupuncture from a trained medical professional. At Alliance, all acupuncturists are medical doctors, so they can assess and treat your health issues from a medical standpoint as well as from the perspective of traditional acupuncture diagnoses. Read here for more information on why we suggest medical acupuncture and what to expect during an acupuncture appointment at AIM.