A pilot study undertaken in Germany, has shown that ear acupuncture can help to reduce pre-exam anxiety in medical students. Ten students were given a simple ear acupuncture treatment the day before their anatomy exams. The needles were of a special design such that they could be left in place, and only removed after the exam. Anxiety levels were found to have decreased by almost 20% after acupuncture. The authors comment that all of the students tolerated the needles well and stated they would wish to receive acupuncture again for exam anxiety in the future.
(Auricular acupuncture for pre-exam anxiety in medical students: a prospective observational pilot investigation. Acupuncture in Medicine, October 2015.)
A pilot study undertaken in Wales suggests that acupuncture may be a promising treatment for chronic anxiety which has been resistant to other interventions through their GP, such as CBT and medication. Forty patients were randomly allocated to one of two groups: one group received ten sessions of acupuncture for 10-12 weeks, whilst the other were held on a waiting list to act as a control. The waiting list group was then similarly given ten sessions of acupuncture. Both groups were followed up for ten weeks after treatment.
State anxiety (anxiety in response to specific situations) scores in the acupuncture group decreased from a mean 57.7 to 38.8, whilst in the waiting list group, the change was 61.5 to 60.6, a highly statistically significant difference. Trait anxiety (personality predisposition) scores showed similar changes. The control group exhibited similar improvements when they received acupuncture, and these improvements were maintained after ten weeks follow-up.
Qualitative comments by the authors of the paper, may be just as valuable in themselves: “Several participants obtained jobs, despite having been unemployed for several years, and some family members voluntarily came to the department specifically to report changes that had occurred. A further outcome not formally assessed, but generally reported by participants, was that those who suffered with insomnia or generalised disturbed sleep found they were sleeping better.”
(Randomised controlled trial on the use of acupuncture in adults with chronic, non-responding anxiety symptoms. Acupuncture in Medicine, online 16 January 2015.)
Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have concluded that at six month follow-up, patients with psychological distress, and treated with either acupuncture or integrative care (acupuncture alongside talking therapy), show more long-term benefit than those given conventional care. Patients were drawn from four GP practices across western Sweden, and comprised 120 adults aged 20 to 55. Primary diagnoses were: depression (30%), anxiety or panic disorders (20%), severe stress (20%), somatic symptoms/pain (20%) and sleep disorders (10%). Acupuncture was given once each week for eight weeks.
Both acupuncture and integrative care were more effective than conventional care, in reducing anxiety and depression whilst improving quality of life. The researchers say their results are in line with earlier findings suggesting the effectiveness of acupuncture for anxiety and depression.
(Six-month effects of integrative treatment, therapeutic acupuncture and conventional treatment in alleviating psychological distress in primary care patient – follow up from an open, pragmatic randomized controlled trial.
BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 30 June 2014.)
A systematic review of complementary medical treatments, carried out by researchers at Oregon Health and Science University in the USA, has shown acupuncture can alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They assessed 33 studies looking into the effects of various therapies on PTSD, and concluded there was good evidence for the usefulness of acupuncture, hypnotherapy, meditation and visualisation.
(Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms: A Systematic Review. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 27 March 2014, epub ahead of print.)
A study undertaken at Madigan Army Medical Center, Washington State, has shown how a holistic, multi-treatment approach can benefit patients with generalised anxiety disorders.
A total of 37 patients with generalised anxiety, received acupuncture once per week for six weeks, in conjunction with a structured self-care programme which included yogic breathing, massage, dietary changes and exercise. The participants showed significant reductions in anxiety, as well as reductions in pain levels and use of medication. The researchers conclude, “By expanding our understanding and acceptance of different types of medical theory and practices, such as TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), the potential to improve clinical outcomes and a patient’s quality of life, using fewer medications and medical resources, may be significantly higher than what is offered by our current options.”
(Treating generalized anxiety disorder using complementary and alternative medicine. Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine, September 2013.)