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How Acupuncture Works for Anxiety Based on Modern Science and Traditional Philosophy

Updated: 6 days ago


How Acupuncture Works for Stress and Anxiety

Traditionally, anxiety is thought to affect the movement of Qi through the meridian network, which results in blockages of Qi; acupuncture needling removes these Qi blockages, restoring the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body, thereby relieving anxiety.


From a modern, scientific perspective, Qi can be thought of as energy, matter, and information, and the acupuncture meridians can be thought of as a composite roadmap of multiple biological signaling systems, including the neural, vascular, and connective tissue networks. Read more about Qi and meridians here.


Using these definitions, Qi blockages can then be thought of as disruptions in the movement of biological energy, matter, and information throughout the body's networks, causing various symptoms, including anxiety.


That being said, the scientific mechanisms of acupuncture are not yet fully understood; however, research has uncovered several key mechanisms of how acupuncture works for anxiety. These include:


  • Acupuncture downregulates the stress response by inhibiting the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) (link to study).

  • Acupuncture triggers the release of endorphins, which are the body's natural pain killers and have anxiolytic properties (link to study).

  • Acupuncture triggers the release of serotonin and other neurochemicals, which have anxiolytic properties (link to study).

Because of the incredible complexity of the human body, studying the mechanisms of acupuncture is inherently difficult.


So, while we have not yet uncovered all of the anxiolytic pathways of acupuncture, what we can say with certainty is that acupuncture works for anxiety by stimulating systemic reactions within the body that produce an anxiety-relieving effect.

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