American authors lead by the University of Detroit, have concluded acupuncture helps dental anxiety. The reviewers surveyed 408 articles, covering over 50000 patients trying 14 different non-pharmaceutical interventions. Acupuncture, acupressure, music, CBT, relaxation and hypnosis were among the most successful. Acupuncture and acupressure, although not widely tested, were given an effectiveness rating of 100%.
(Dealing with Anxious Patients: A Systematic Review of the Literature on Nonpharmaceutical Interventions to Reduce Anxiety in Patients Undergoing Medical or Dental Procedures. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, September 2021.)
A team led by Lund University, Sweden has shown that a course of acupuncture improves subjective well-being for women being treated for anorexia nervosa. A qualitative analysis was undertaken on interviews from 25 patients, median age 29, taking part in a residential treatment programme. The programme included structured eating, medication, supportive dialogue and restrictions on physical activity. Patients were also offered acupuncture twice a week, in addition to usual care, with additional sessions available on request. Participants took part in the study for between one and twenty-six weeks.
Acupuncture was appreciated by patients: they felt it relieved anxiety and somatic symptoms, benefited both body and mind, eased the struggle to get better, and helped them in all phases of their recovery. It was described as an attractive, personalised part of the programme, and a tool that made it possible for them to influence their own wellness. The authors say “Many participants described how acupuncture could help them relax and get into a pleasant mindful state where they could rest and be themselves…. ‘like getting a nice pause in your brain’. They could observe and process their thoughts, one by one, without provoking stress or a compulsion to act on them. Participants described how acupuncture taught them what it felt like to be relaxed in a natural way…. They experienced that they could concentrate better and focus on issues after acupuncture. The relaxation was described as a new, deep, experience, giving them an inner peace.”
They go on to point out that although patients were offered acupuncture to reduce anxiety and stress, they actually experienced positive somatic side effects including less pain and easing of constipation and other stomach-related complaints.
(Getting Well Is More Than Gaining Weight – Patients’ Experiences of a Treatment Program for Anorexia Nervosa Including Ear Acupuncture. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 15 January 2020.)
Researchers in Italy have examined the usefulness of acupuncture for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) following the central Italian earthquake of August 2016. A total of 41 patients were given four treatments over consecutive days. Both psychological and physical symptoms were reported by 68% of patients.
At baseline, 23 patients reported severe or extremely severe pain. After the third treatment, this dropped to four patients. With regard to psychological symptoms, 32 patients rated these as severe or extremely severe at baseline. After the third treatment, this dropped to 7 patients.
The researchers say this was an observational study with the goal of evaluating acupuncture in an emergency context. The results suggest that acupuncture could be a useful tool for reducing psychological symptoms related to earthquakes, but further research is required.
(An Observational Study on Acupuncture for Earthquake-Related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: The Experience of the Lombard Association of Medical Acupuncturists/Acupuncture in the World, in Amatrice, Central Italy. Medical Acupuncture, on-line 15 April 2019.))
A team at Narayana Dental College & Hospital in India, have found that acupressure can be successfully used to reduce dental anxiety in children. A total of 375 children, aged 8 to 12, who were scheduled for scaling and/or restorative procedures, were randomly assigned to one of three groups: acupressure, sham acupressure or control. The acupressure points chosen are traditionally used for calming, whilst the sham points are not known to have any such effect.
Significant differences were observed between the three groups, in terms of subjective anxiety scores, objective behaviour ratings, and pulse rates. The acupressure group displayed the lowest anxiety score based on all measures.
(Effectiveness of Acupressure on Dental Anxiety in Children. Pediatric Dentistry, 15 May 2018.)
Lavender has often been used as a calming agent for anxiety, and to help with the onset of sleep. By studying mice, a team at Kagoshima University, Japan, has now confirmed the identity of the relevant component of lavender oil and its mechanism of action. The anxiolytic (ie anxiety-reducing) chemical is one of the terpene alcohols in lavender, called linalool. Moreover, the researchers established for the first time that linalool must be smelt in order to produce its calming effect, as opposed to being absorbed in the lungs or taken up by the bloodstream.
The team say their findings may lead to the clinical application of linalool odour for anxiety disorders and to alleviate preoperative stress.
(Linalool Odor-Induced Anxiolytic Effects in Mice. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 23 October 2018.)