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Can acupuncture help with stress and anxiety?

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

Remaining calm may feel like a Herculean task when anxiety hits. The key is to try to maintain some level of normalcy within the chaos.

Often with anxiety, thoughts can become chaotic and there's a certain level of fear about the future. Sometimes just knowing you're doing something productive — whether getting an acupuncture treatment, exercising or practicing self-massage — can help reduce worries about things that fall outside of your control.

Acupuncture is a branch of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body. While its effectiveness may vary for different individuals, Studies show that acupuncture is an effective treatment for stress anxiety, with fewer side effects than medications. Here’s how acupuncture may help with stress and anxiety:

1. Regulation of neurotransmitters. Acupuncture has been shown to stimulate the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood boosters. It also helps regulate the levels of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline, all of which play a role in anxiety disorders.

2. Stress reduction. Acupuncture can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which triggers the relaxation response and helps reduce stress levels. By calming the mind and the body, it can alleviate the symptoms associated with anxiety.

3. Hormone balance. Acupuncture has been found to regulate hormonal balance, including those related to stress and anxiety. It can help rebalance the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which controls the body’s stress response, leading to a reduction in anxiety symptoms.

4. Improved sleep: Anxiety often disrupts sleep patterns, resulting in fatigue and worsening of symptoms. Acupuncture can help promote better sleep by addressing underlying imbalances that contribute to sleeping difficulties.

There are a number of things people can do at home to extend the benefits they achieve immediately after an acupuncture session.

a) Pay attention to your diet: Diet plays a key role in maintaining the effects of acupuncture. Incorporate more antioxidant and nutrient-rich plants into your diet.

b) Get moving: Movement is therapy. Walking, swimming, yoga, tai chi and qigong are gentle exercises that can help you maintain balance in your body.

c) Self-massage: Self-massage can help alleviate mild to moderate pain in muscle and connective tissue. Acupressure is a form of massage that targets specific acupuncture points with pressure along with deep breathing. Ask your acupuncturist for customized acupressure point combinations for your specific health concerns.

Many people prefer non-pharmacological options for managing anxiety. Acupuncture offers a natural alternative to medications, providing a holistic and personalized approach to anxiety treatment.


The British Acupuncture Council is the regulatory body that holds a list of acupuncturists in the UK who have acquired the level of study required to practice. It upholds very high standards of care and professionalism and its members are insured with them and undergo post graduate training to support their ongoing learning. You can find an acupuncturist in your area by checking their website and searching for local practitioners by postcode.


Most private health insurance companies pay for acupuncture and all you need to do is to give them a call and understand the procedure for claiming. Most of the time the company will ask you to pay for your session and then will re-imburse you following receipt from the practitioner. A few require a referral from your GP but most are self-referral.


Receiving acupuncture is a different experience to most other medical consultations as there is more time to really understand the time line of the complaint and to work with each patient. Most practitioners work for an hour with each individual and this allows plenty of time for a tailor-made treatment plan to be discussed. Every individual is different and the time allows for a collaborative discussion for improvement encompassing all areas of life, diet, lifestyle and emotions.


Sarah has a keen interest in mental health and her practice covers areas of Esher, Oxshott, Cobham, Claygate, Weybridge and Walton-on-Thames. In her experience, she finds that acupuncture works really well on its own or as an adjunctive therapy to talk therapy or medication.

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