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Your Questions About Acupuncture For Anxiety & Insomnia

Posted Mar 23 2011 11:23am

Jenny asks…

I have Asperger’s syndrome, and social anxiety as a result. I don’t want to take meds and there isn’t any cognitive behavioral therapy remotely nearby, so I’m looking into acupuncture. Anyone who’s tried acupuncture for anxiety, what’s it like? How effective was it? Do you have to get it regularly for it to work?

Acupuncture can help manage anxiety in many cases. Sometimes the effects are pretty dramatic, especially immediately after a treatment. There will typically be some ups and downs, but a cumulative beneficial effect. For best results, I no longer focus on stress or anxiety-relieving points alone, but do a more general tonifying and balancing treatment. Depending on my overall evaluation of my patient, I will often treat a set of points on the back (more targeted at the organ systems), immediately followed by a set of points on the arms and legs, chosen according to meridian balancing theory. The combination often works wonders.

As with most chronic conditions, I normally try to get a few treatments done fairly close together – meaning every 3-4 days. Once a good change is established, I would stretch out the time between treatments, according to the progress we are making. In the long run, I would expect that treatments once a month or so would be suitable for maintenance.

Also, I have found that Chinese medicinal herbs can be very helpful. These go a long way toward maintaining a good state of mind between acupuncture treatments. There are a number of potential formula available, depending on the specifics of your condition and overall health/constitution, and many herbalists will want to further customize a “standard” formula for you. The herbs typically used are very benign and suitable for long term use. They manage to settle the emotional state, without being sedative.


Donald asks…

If anyone has do you find it works?many thanks

Donald, see my comments in the answer above. While Jenny mentions a specific medical condition that doesn’t apply to you, the fact is acupuncture can work wonders for both anxiety and insomnia. My approach to treatment is similar for both issues. (I’m assuming here that the insomnia is caused by your mind “not wanting to turn off” at night. Upon questioning, I sometimes find that someone’s “insomnia” is more a matter of waking up from pain issues, having to go to the bathroom, being wakened by the family pet, etc. Acupuncture may be very useful for these conditions too – perhaps not the pet problem – but a different approach would be in order.)

Again herbs can be a very useful part of the treatment, although the formulations are somewhat different for insomnia than for anxiety alone. With treatment by acupuncture and herbs, many people find they can get a very sound, restful sleep, without the sedative properties of the typical pharmaceutical “solutions.”

By the way, I’ve had the toughest time treating insomnia when my patient has been on a drug such as Ambien for quite a while. I think part of it is the difficulty in reestablishing healthy sleep patterns (which drugs tend to disrupt, even though they can put you to sleep). But sometimes I’ve seen people very anxious about getting OFF the drug, because they are worried about not sleeping. I won’t say acupuncture and herbs can’t help these folks – it often can – but it may be a longer process.




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