Researchers carrying out a systematic review of clinical trials on acupuncture for post-traumatic stress disorder, have found promising evidence for its effectiveness. Four randomised, controlled trials and two uncontrolled trials were included in the review.
– One high quality randomised, controlled trial found that acupuncture was superior to waiting list control, and similar in effect size to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
– One randomised, controlled trial showed acupuncture and SSRI anti-depressants to be equal in effect.
– One randomised, controlled trial found acupuncture in conjunction with CBT was more useful than CBT alone.
Where SSRI anti-depressant therapy is concerned, the researchers point out that during long-term SSRI therapy, the most troubling adverse effects can include sexual dysfunction (2 to 7% of patients), weight gain (average 10.8 kg for paroxetine), and sleep disturbance. Conversely, for acupuncture, mild adverse events such as bleeding and bruising, occurred at a rate of 6.8% (2,178 out of 31,822 sessions). According to two studies, no serious adverse events were reported in a total of 66,229 acupuncture sessions. Therefore for long-term therapy, acupuncture may be a relatively safe alternative to SSRIs.
(Acupuncture for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials & Prospective Clinical Trials. Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 2013.)
Researchers in the Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, Ankara Training and Research Hospital in Turkey, have found that a single session of acupuncture using one traditionally calming acupuncture point, can reduce preoperative anxiety in adult surgical patients. Fifty-two patients were randomly assigned to receive either acupuncture at the point Yintang, located on the forehead, or they were needled at a sham point. Anxiety levels decreased significantly in the treatment group, whilst no change was observed in the sham group.
(Acupuncture on Yintang Point Decreases Preoperative Anxiety. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 7 May 2013.)
A study of Chinese earthquake victims suggests that electroacupuncture is more effective than anti-depressants for treating the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Researchers identified 138 people who were suffering symptoms as a result of experiencing a magnitude 8.0 earthquake on the Richter scale, in May 2008. They randomly allocated people to receive either electroacupuncture treatment or anti-depressant medication (paroxetine). After treatment, both groups reported reduced symptoms, but the improvements in the electroacupuncture group were significantly greater, at all time points in follow-up to six months.
(Clinical Studies on Treatment of Earthquake-Caused Posttraumatic Stress Disorder using Electroacupuncture. Evidence-Based Complementary & Alter Medicine (Hindawi), 2012.)
This study aimed to evaluate the efficacy and acceptability of acupuncture for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Participants were randomly allocated to one of three groups: acupuncture, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), or a waiting list as control. Patients were assessed at the start and end of treatment, and again at a follow-up appointment after three months. Acupuncture was shown to provide large treatment benefits, similar to CBT, with improvements for both maintained three months later. The authors conclude that acupuncture may be efficacious for reducing symptoms of PTSD, depression and anxiety. They say the research design used in this study, which compares real-world treatment options, has considerable potential for informing clinical decision making.
(Acupuncture for posttraumatic stress disorder – A randomized controlled pilot trial. Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease, June 2007.)
A systematic review of the evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment of anxiety, has been published by London’s University of Westminster. In all, twelve controlled trials were found, and all had positive findings. The authors conclude the results are promising, and recommend further research.
(Acupuncture for anxiety and anxiety disorders – a systematic literature review. Acupuncture in Medicine, June 2007.)