Acupuncture for Anxiety, a Gentle Approach to Managing Anxiety Disorders

Acupuncture for Anxiety, a Gentle Approach to Managing Anxiety Disorders

Living with anxiety disorders can be profoundly disruptive, influencing everything from your career to your relationships. For those seeking a natural approach to alleviate anxiety, acupuncture offers a promising alternative. This ancient technique is celebrated for its holistic benefits and has gained recognition for its potential to ease anxiety symptoms significantly.

Understanding Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are characterized by persistent, excessive worry that disrupts daily functioning. Common symptoms include chronic worry, fatigue, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating. These conditions are prevalent across various demographics, illustrating the widespread nature of anxiety issues.

The Basics of Acupuncture

Originating from ancient China, acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body. Traditionally linked to balancing life energy, modern medical theories suggest acupuncture may activate the nervous system, enhancing the body’s mood regulation and pain relief mechanisms.

Acupuncture’s Role in Anxiety Management

Acupuncture modulates the activity of the nervous system, potentially easing anxiety and enhancing mood. This effect may be linked to its ability to influence neurotransmitters and hormones that govern stress responses and emotional health.

Addressing Anxiety Attacks with Acupuncture

During sudden anxiety attacks, acupuncture could offer immediate relief by fostering a sense of calm. It is believed to help regulate stress-related hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, thus providing a stabilizing effect.

Scientific Evidence Supporting Acupuncture for Anxiety

Recent studies underscore the effectiveness of acupuncture in managing anxiety. A 2022 meta-analysis of twenty-seven studies concluded that acupuncture can effectively alleviate symptoms in patients with generalized anxiety disorder, often with fewer side effects than traditional treatments. This makes acupuncture a viable and safe complementary option that can be used alongside conventional therapies, enhancing overall effectiveness and patient well-being.

Treatment Frequency and Expectations

Acupuncture treatment plans for anxiety are highly individualized, typically involving multiple sessions over a period of time. The specific number and frequency of sessions depend on your personal needs and the severity of your symptoms. The safety and minimal side effects associated with acupuncture make it a sustainable option for long-term care.

Acupuncture offers a promising alternative for those seeking to manage anxiety naturally. With its potential to alleviate symptoms and improve overall well-being, it’s a therapy worth considering for anyone struggling with anxiety disorders. Whether used as a standalone treatment or as part of an integrated approach, acupuncture has proven to be a valuable component of anxiety management.

If you’re experiencing anxiety and are curious about what acupuncture can do for you, we invite you to book an appointment with us. Take the first step towards a calmer, more centered you—reach out today and let us help you on your journey to better mental health.


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The Science of Acupuncture

New CT scan technology reveals acupuncture points. Click the following to read the story: Acupuncture Point Discovery.

Researchers have discovered how to measure and validate the existence of acupuncture points and their meridians. MRI studies and oxygen sensor studies come from some of the most prestigious universities in the world. Today, I want to start with remarkable research from investigators at one of the most prestigious universities in Korea.

Sungkyunkwan University (Seoul) was founded in 1398. Yes, over 600 years ago! It was recently acquired by the Samsung Group in 1996, which has helped preserve its legacy of excellence with substantial financial support. The university is a leader in many fields including nanotechnology and natural sciences, features a dual degree program with Ohio State University and has a collaborative program with the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Sloan School of Management.

Two researchers from Sungkunkwan Univeristy worked with another researcher from the Department of Chemistry and Nano Science at Ewha Womans University on this ground breaking research. Notably, Ewha Womans University is considered one of the most prestigious schools in Korea and produced Korea’s first female doctor, lawyer, justice on the Constitutional Court and the first female prime minister of Korea.

Why all the fuss about researchers and the schools they hail from? In the many years I have worked in Chinese and Oriental Medicine, I have uniformly come across skepticism and resistance to valuable, peer reviewed research. I want to give a little background before going forward with something as important as this research. For some it seems, no research institute or study is sufficient so long as it says something positive about acupuncture and herbal medicine. Ethnocentrism abound, I wanted to stave off imperious pans decrying putative proofs and to assuage presumptive skepticism and concomitant guetapens. Perhaps establishing the authenticity and seriousness of the institutions from which the research emanates helps equanimity to mollify incredulity and for rapprochement to exist between the skeptic and modern scientists whose works demonstrate the existence of acupuncture points and their functions.

The research from Sungkyunkwan University and Ewha Woman University is entitled Heterogeneity of Skin Surface Oxygen Level of Wrist in Relation to Acupuncture Point.[1] The study used an amperometric oxygen microsensor to detect partial oxygen pressure variations at different locations on the anterior aspect of the left wrist. The researchers concluded that partial oxygen pressure is significantly higher at acupuncture points.

Below are two images from the study measuring the increase of partial oxygen pressure combined with an overlay of the local acupuncture point locations. The images are representative of typical readings found in the study and remarkably map the Lung Hand Taiyin, Pericardium Hand Jueyin and Heart Shaoyin channels and their associated local points. Depicted are P7 and P6 clearly showing high oxygen pressure levels. The same is true for LU9, LU8, HT7, HT6, HT5 and HT4. Note that non-acupuncture point regions do not show higher oxygen pressure levels. These measurements are not needled points but are natural resting states of acupuncture points absent stimulation. This biomedical research gives us insight into the structural makeup of acupuncture points. This type of basic research is not isolated and numerous studies from multitudes of the top research centers and universities demonstrate specific properties and physiological actions of acupuncture points.

Wrist acupuncture points including the Peridcardium channel and Lung channel.  (Seen Above)

The nexus of most research on the physical existence of acupuncture points and acupuncture meridians is hemodynamic, MRI, oxygen pressure, histological, physiological, clinical and electroconductivity research. Researchers at the University of California School of Medicine (Irvine, California) noted, “Recent evidence shows that stimulation of different points on the body causes distinct responses in hemodynamic, fMRI and central neural electrophysiological responses.” The investigators reviewed MRI results and noted that “stimulation of different sets of acupoints leads to disease-specific neuronal responses, even when acupoints are located within the same spinal segment.” This summarizes research in the vanguard of technical documentation on acupuncture.[2][3]

University of California researchers Choi, Jiang and Longhurst note of acupuncture, “hemodynamic, functional magnetic resonance imaging and neurophysiological studies evaluating the responses to stimulation of multiple points on the body surface have shown that point-specific actions are present.”[4] Naturally, they are running into the difficulty of AhShi points and their specific actions. Perhaps they will discover new effective actions for AhShi points as a result of basic research. Other research shows point specificity in brain physiology and reflects the overall direction of scientific investigation in the field of acupuncture.

The Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging featured research on the neurophysiological effects of acupuncture points using MRI imaging noting that acupoint GB40 stimulation enhanced “connectivity between the superior temporal gyrus (STG) and anterior insula.” The investigators concluded, “The current study demonstrates that acupuncture at different acupoints could exert different modulatory effects on RSNs. Our findings may help to understand the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying acupuncture specificity.”[5] Here, the researchers have validated acupuncture point specificity and suggest a possible physiological model of understanding acupuncture points.

HRV (Heart Rate Variability) is a measure of cardiovascular health. One study notes that, “HRV changes significantly during auricular acupuncture….” This research also notes that, “HRV total increases during auricular acupuncture….”[6] Another related study from the International Society for Autonomic Neuroscience notes that acupuncture “causes the modulation of cardiac autonomic function.” These are but two examples of investigations citing specific medicinal actions of specific acupuncture points and is in no way exhaustive of the vast body of research demonstrating acupuncture point specificity for the treatment of hypertension, atrial fibrillation and other cardiovascular disorders.[7] Investigators from the University of California (Los Angeles and Irvine) “have shown that electroacupuncture stimulation activates neurons” in specific brain regions thereby reducing hypertension.[8]

Dr. Berman, M.D. served as a lead researcher in a University of Maryland School of Medicine investigation published in the prestigious Annals of Internal Medicine. The research concludes that, “Acupuncture seems to provide improvement in function and pain relief as an adjunctive therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee when compared with credible sham acupuncture and education control groups.”[9] What is interesting in this clinical trial is that it was an early study showing that sham acupuncture was not as effective as verum acupuncture. The study sought to isolate and address the placebo effect and found that it is not responsible for the medical benefits associated with acupuncture therapy. There are many papers showing the specific medical benefits of acupuncture on internal organs, tissues and towards the resolution of specific ailments. I thought I would highlight this investigation given its historical value.

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity initially did not catch on and was ridiculed before acceptance. The same is true for much of medicine both old and new. People’s presuppositions often circumvent equanimity and receptiveness to new insights. Backing up a bit, one might have thought that a basic neurologic test for the Babinski Sign was pure fiction. It may have seemed logical and self-evident that rubbing someone’s foot and looking for dorsiflexion of the great toe and fanning of the other toes could not possibly indicate brain or spinal cord damage. Yet, the great French neurologist of Polish origin, Babinski, discovered that this plantar reflex identifies central nervous system damage, which is now an accepted medical reality by medical doctors and is an effective diagnostic tool for central nervous system damage.

Acupuncturists and herbalists have faced acrimonious traducements and caluminiations towards substantiated supportive research. Often there is a predilection towards rejecting the efficacy of Chinese and Oriental Medicine that trumps the realities of hard evidence and smacks of ethnocentrism. The Flat Earth Society felt the same way about the infidels suggesting that the earth is round. Galileo had his fair share of troubles too. It cannot be underestimated how high the stakes really are for patient care and beneficial patient outcomes. At risk is non-integration of cost-effective medicine that roots out the source of suffering by healing illness. A time honored traditional clinical medicine history combined with supportive modern research data suggests that acupuncture is an effective modality of therapeutic care. Acupuncture seems impossible? Recall the words of Mark Twain, “Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.”

It may appear to some that it is self-evident and logical that acupuncture points exist only as part of some sort of chimerical hermeneutic system. However, extensive research has already been conducted at major universities worldwide demonstrating not only that acupuncture points and meridians exist but also how they physiologically function. There is a resistance to an enormous body of research. Cloaked in veil of mature skepticism and realism, naysayers grasp at piecemeal attack pieces to fight off what has already been measured, documented and peer reviewed both in individual studies and large scale meta-analyses. I suggest an era of open-mindedness towards the modern research documenting the efficacy of Chinese and Oriental medicine, acupuncture and herbal medicine.

[1] Minyoung Hong, Sarah S. Park, Yejin Ha, et al., “Heterogeneity of Skin Surface Oxygen Level of Wrist in Relation to Acupuncture Point,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2012, Article ID 106762, 7 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/10a6762.
[2] Point specificity in acupuncture. Chin Med. 2012 Feb 28;7:4. doi: 10.1186/1749-8546-7-4. Choi EM, Jiang F, Longhurst JC.
[3] Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine CA 92697-4075, USA.
[4] Point specificity in acupuncture. Chin Med. 2012 Feb 28;7:4. doi: 10.1186/1749-8546-7-4. Choi EM, Jiang F, Longhurst JC.
[5] Zhong, C., Bai, L., Dai, R., Xue, T., Wang, H., Feng, Y., Liu, Z., You, Y., Chen, S. and Tian, J. (2011), Modulatory effects of acupuncture on resting-state networks: A functional MRI study combining independent component analysis and multivariate granger causality analysis. Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
[6] Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 817378, 7 pages. doi:10.1155/2012/817378. Sino-European Transcontinental Basic and Clinical High-Tech Acupuncture Studies—Part 1: Auricular Acupuncture Increases Heart Rate Variability in Anesthetized Rats. Xin-Yan Gao, Kun Liu, Bing Zhu and Gerhard Litscher.
[7] Kurono Y, Minagawa M, Ishigami T, Yamada A, Kakamu T, Hayano J. Auton Neurosci. Acupuncture to Danzhong but not to Zhongting increases the cardiac vagal component of heart rate variability. 2011 Apr 26;161(1-2):116-20. Epub 2011 Jan 7.
[8] Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 878673, 9 pages. doi:10.1155/2012/878673. Neuroendocrine Mechanisms of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Hypertension. Wei Zhou and John C. Longhurst. Department of Anesthesiology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA. Department of Medicine, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA.
[9] Ann Intern Med, Berman, Lixing, Lagenberg, Lee, Gilpin, Hochberg. 2004; 141:901-910.

Treating Low T in Men with TCM

“Low T,” one of the hot medical buzz phrases going around, has been detected and treated in Traditional Chinese Medicine as early as the 1st century CE. What is it, what causes it, do you or someone you know have it, and how can you treat it? You may have noticed the title of this post is “Treating Low T in Men with TCM.” Yes, women can have Low T as well. More about that on a future date.

What is Low T (in men)?

The symptoms of Low T tend to appear during or shortly after reaching middle age, and many simply consider them to be a normal part of the aging process. In many cases, this is true. In many cases, it does not have to be a foregone conclusion. Low T can lead to the following:

  • Lower lean muscle to fat ratio

  • Physical decline/frailty

  • Sexual dysfunction

  • Erectile dysfunction

  • Loss of muscle mass and function

  • Decreased bone density

  • Low libido

  • Cognitive impairment

  • Fatigue

  • Anxiety

  • Insomnia

What Causes Low T?

There is no one answer to this question, nor is there a one size fits all treatment. At Affinity Acupuncture, we adhere to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, including the premise that each individual is a unique case with their own triggers and specified treatment plan.

Testosterone is a steroid hormone produced in both men and women.  For men, it’s produced primarily in the testes and secondarily in the adrenal glands. Keep your eyes on this blog for future postings on adrenal fatigue.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, testosterone is Yang in nature. If Yin and Yang are off balance, it can lead to a decrease in the production of testosterone.

Some of the causes of Low T include:

  • Certain traumas including injuries and certain cancers

  • Certain high blood pressure medications

  • SSRI medications

  • Obesity

  • Mumps


  • Steroid use

Non-biomedical causes include:

  • Excess of physical/emotional work

  • Chronic stress

  • Prolonged alcohol use

  • Age (Testosterone tends to decrease by ~1%/year after the age of 45)

  • Chemical exposure including pesticides, pharmaceuticals BPA (found in many canned foods and plastics), meats, dairy products, petrochemicals, and personal care products

  • Lack of sleep

  • Diabetes

  • Excessive or deficient amounts of exercise

  • Frequency of sexual activity

So, how are you supposed to avoid processed foods, get the perfect amount of exercise, get a full night of restful sleep, maintain a healthy sex life, and avoid all of these chemicals in the world while decreasing stress? For most people, making lifestyle changes is in of itself stressful. The good news is, you’re not on your own in this journey. The good news is, your life and your body are yours. There are certain things you can’t control, but others that you can. We can help.

Do You or Someone You Know Have Low T? 

This content is for informational purposes only. If you are experiencing some or all of the symptoms above, please consult with a professional. Self-diagnosis and self-treatment can lead to dangerous consequences.

Affinity Acupuncture offers free consultations to new clients. If you or someone you know may suffer from Low T, call 615-939-2787 or visit our website to schedule a consult.

Please consult with a professional before making dramatic changes, altering medications, or selecting your own supplements. Causing too dramatic a shift in Yin and Yang can have significant consequences, including anxiety, constipation, heart palpitations, and acne. It can also cause the body to “crash” and deplete itself further.

How Can You Treat Low T? 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s important to compete an accurate TCM pattern diagnosis. This will allow your practitioner to develop a protocol specific to you and your needs.

It is likely that your practitioner will recommend a specific acupuncture point protocol, supported by herbal formulas. They may also recommend dietary therapy and certain types of physical activity.

For those of us who are lucky, aging is inevitable. It is, however, possible to keep the body in balance as it ages, slowing or even decreasing the signs and symptoms associate with growing older. We get one body. We get one life. We should take care of them.

Contact Affinity Acupuncture for Nashville Acupuncture treatments and techniques.

Acupuncture Relieves Depression, Benefits Biochemistry

Acupuncture Relieves Depression, Benefits Biochemistry


From Health CMI

Acupuncture boosts antidepressant medication effectiveness and balances biochemistry. Researchers from Tianjin University of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) found that adding acupuncture to a fluoxetine drug therapy regimen of care increases the total effective rate by over 10%. In addition, the onset of clinical benefits was quicker for patients receiving acupuncture combined with paroxetine than for patients only receiving paroxetine, also known by the trade name Paxil.

Fluoxetine is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used for the treatment of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Two randomized groups were compared. The fluoxetine group had a 77.05% total effective rate for the treatment of depression. The acupuncture plus paroxetine group had a total effective rate of 88.85%.

The experiment reveals an important effect on blood chemistry for patients with depression. Acupuncture successfully regulated (interferon) IFN-gamma and (interleukin) IL-4 levels. The Tianjin University of TCM research is consistent with the findings of Zheng et al. finding patients suffering from depression have increased IFN-gamma levels and low IL-4 levels. The addition of acupuncture to the regimen of drug care successfully decreased IFN-gamma levels while increasing IL-4 levels. This regulatory function demonstrated by acupuncture’s effect on biochemistry demonstrates a homeostatic effect.

The findings suggest that depression presents challenges to the immune system and that acupuncture mediates immune system responses. S. R. Paludan from the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Aarhus in Denmark notes, “The two cytokines interleukin (IL)-4 and interferon (IFN)-gamma play major roles in the generation and regulation of immune responses.” Paludan adds that the “functions of IL-4 and IFN-gamma place the two cytokines at cardinal positions in the regulation of immune reactions.” 

The Tianjin University of TCM research finds that acupuncture balances IL-4 and IFN-gamma concomitantly with the reduction of depression. The acupuncture points used in the study were:

  • Hegu, LI4

  • Taichong, LV3

  • Baihui, DU20

  • Yintang, extra point

The acupuncturists elicited the deqi response with lifting and thrusting techniques for LV3 and LI4. For DU20 and Yintang, a pulling and pushing technique was employed to elicit deqi. Needle retention time was 30 minutes per session. Acupuncture was administered once per day for five days to complete one course of care. A total of four courses of care were administered. The researchers cite foundations for this treatment dating back to the Qing dynasty. Renowned doctor Ye Tian Shi stated that depression is due to blocked qi and heat accumulation in the body, Qi Zhi Re Yu.

The study confirms the findings of other important research teams. Qu et al. finds acupuncture effective for enhancing the effects of paroxetine for the treatment of major depression. Wang et al. find acupuncture effective for increasing the effectiveness of paroxetine for the treatment of mild and moderate depression. Wang et al. note, “Acupuncture combined with SSRIs shows a statistically significant benefit over a 6-week period compared with SSRI administration only.” In addition, acupuncture reduced the side effects of paroxetine intake including reductions of urinary and sexual disorders, headaches, dizziness, constipation, and sleep disturbances.

Chen et al. came to the same conclusions based on their research. Acupuncture increased the effectiveness of paroxetine. The researchers note, “acupuncture/electroacupuncture has a rapid onset of therapeutic effect and produces a noticeable improvement in obsessive-compulsive, depressive and anxiety symptoms.” Research across multiple studies demonstrates that acupuncture is safe, effective, and enhances the effectiveness of paroxetine for the treatment of depression.

Lin, H., Yu, Z. F. & Kang, F. H. (2014). Th1/Th2 Balance on Depression Patients by Acupuncture Treatment Combined with Antidepressant. Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 30 (7).

Liang, W., Zhang, H. M. & Zhang, H. Y. (2010). Effects of Sertraline on Depression Patients’ Cell Factor Balance. China Pharmacy Journal. 21(18): 1685-1686.

Zheng, L. & Wang, Y. M. (2013). Depression Patients Serum IFN-γ, IL-10 level and NGF, NT-3 related research. Guizhou Medicine Journal. 37(7): 592-593.

Paludan, S. R. “Interleukin-4 and interferon-gamma: the quintessence of a mutual antagonistic relationship.” Scandinavian journal of immunology 48, no. 5 (1998): 459-468.

Qu SS, Huang Y, Zhang ZJ, et al. A 6-week randomized controlled trial with 4-week follow-up of acupuncture combined with paroxetine in patients with major depressive disorder. J Psychiat Res 2013;47:726–32. 13 Zhang ZJ, Ng R, Man SC, et al. Dense cranial.

Wang, S. H., Wang, Y. Z., Ma, X. H., Guo, Z., Yang, X. J., Zhang, W. Y., Guo, T. W. and Tu, Y. (2014). Study on alleviating side effect of paroxetine and improving quality of life using acupuncture in treatment of mild or moderate depression. Chinese Journal of Behavioral Medicine and Brain Science. 23 (3).

Chen, Junqi, Weirong Lin, Shengxu Wang, Chongqi Wang, Ganlong Li, Shanshan Qu, Yong Huang, Zhangjin Zhang, and Wei Xiao. “Acupuncture/electroacupuncture enhances anti-depressant effect of Seroxat: the Symptom Checklist-90 scores.” Neural Regeneration Research 9, no. 2 (2014): 213.

Holiday Hours

Holiday Hours

Need to recover from the stress of ACA open enrollment and holiday preparations? Appointments and gift certificates are still available (and tax deductible) before the end of 2014. We will be closed December 24-29, and December 31-January 2. Call 615-939-2787 to schedule today.

We wish you and yours a safe, happy, joyous holiday season.