Acupuncture Helps Anxiety and Depression in New York City - Manhattan
Updated: Nov 6
I am a Manhattan acupuncturist practicing in Midtown and living in one of the most stressful cities on this planet, New York City. Am I stressed out? You bet I am! In fact, approximately 20% of NYC residents experience some form of mental distress with anxiety being the most common complaint.
Anxiety is a term that includes a bunch of different symptoms ranging from palpitations, feelings of fear, anger and irritability, muscle tension, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, digestive issues etc. All treatments with acupuncture involve understanding how the symptoms are affecting the circulatory patterns in the body known as channels. As I have discussed previously, the channel system is a pathway of circulation that nourishes each organ. Symptoms occur when pathways are obstructed.
There are 3 main points to consider when treating anxiety. The first consideration is the channel. This tells us where the illness is located in the body. The second is our lifestyle. Last, but not least is the patient's history especially regarding trauma.
Determining the Channel
Anxiety has been detailed in the classical text the Huang Di Nei Jing in Ling Shu Chapters 9 and 10. In these chapters anxiety symptoms have been detailed in specific channels, for example, in the pericardium/coronary vessel channel the key indicators are palpitations, feelings of heat, uneasiness in the heart, and hot sweaty palms are mentioned In the liver channel it mentions being unable to take a full breath, anger, irritability, vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms indicate impairments in the regions between the stomach, diaphragm, and liver organ where the channel passes. Other key indicators are fear as if someone will arrest you in the kidney channel. To effectively treat anxiety with acupuncture we need to pinpoint which channel is being affected by anxiety. As we treat the affected channels, the clinical effectiveness is greatly enhanced. Acupuncture benefits the body in a number of ways, but to get the most out of acupuncture treatments, it is best to make some lifestyle changes.
Diet and Sleep
The most important lifestyle aspects we want to consider is diet and sleep patterns. Generally we should be eating and sleeping at regular times because this enhances our resources for healing. At minimum, we should have 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. This may be difficult being a New York City resident because the city is very stimulating, but it is absolutely essential especially during periods of anxiety and depression.
In general we should have 1 hour of exercise daily. I prefer yoga, but any exercise that increases the heart rate and gets the blood circulating will help. If palpitations are the main symptom, I will suggest that a person refrain from exercising as this can increase feelings of anxiety. In these cases we will use acupuncture and herbal therapies to strengthen the body and calm the mind.
Alcohol in both Chinese medicine and Western medicine effects liver function and creates inflammation. In Chinese medicine the liver is responsible for maintaining the free flow of circulation by opening the channel pathways. Alcohol inhibits the liver from performing this necessary function, which leads to feelings of anger, frustration, and irritability. Now, I know my office is located in a fun neighborhood with the Reichenbach German Beer Hall next door. In fact, my wife and I had a celebratory drink there after we moved into our midtown clinic, but for those having moderate to severe anxiety, alcohol should be reduced and eventually eliminated enabling the nervous system and liver system to regenerate.
The Patients History
Understanding the patient narrative is the most important aspect of medicine. If there has been physical or emotional trauma, often times the patient can pinpoint where these areas are located in the body. These areas may be holding emotional content, and when treated, may allow the patient to let go of the emotions associated with the trauma that have lead to anxiety and depression in the first place. Treating these areas is of special importance especially when a patient has difficulty accessing their emotions. Only when we are able to access emotions, can we let them go.
In general a good acupuncture treatment will leave you feeling very relaxed, yet alert, unlike medications or sleeping aids. When we treat the appropriate channels, there is a release of mood enhancing chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin. Recent developments in acupuncture treatments enable us to stimulate the production of specific neurotransmitters like gaba, serotonin, and dopamine. These chemicals help the body and mind to relax. For more information on neurotransmitters and how they affect the body please read my blog Frequency Specific Acupuncture Stimulation.
In fact, a study titled Acupuncture and Counselling for Depression in Primary Care: A Randomised Controlled Trial concludes that "acupuncture and counseling for patients presenting with depression, after having consulted their general practitioner in primary care, both interventions were associated with significantly reduced depression at 3 months when compared to usual care alone." At our midtown acupuncture clinic, we have seen symptoms of anxiety and depression diminish with treatment over time. It is amazing to watch someone move from their internal season of winter when everything seems barren to spring time when the world seem clear and life is beginning to stir.