There’s a growing trend in mental health and addiction treatment to find alternative, non-medical interventions. Many individuals prefer natural healing and are cautious about the things they consume and participate in.
For this reason and others, acupuncture has received more attention in the past two decades in the United States, and its popularity may still be growing. In this article, we’ll explore the potential health benefits of acupuncture as well as how it can impact your mental well-being and substance use recovery.
Acupuncture as a form of treatment
Acupuncture is the practice of inserting thin needles into the skin at strategic points in the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. The use of acupuncture to treat medical conditions has been around for over 2,500 years as part of traditional Chinese medicine, which claims that the insertion of needles balances the body’s flow of energy.
Acupuncture is now commonly used as a combination of Eastern and Western medicine and aims to stimulate certain nerves. The goal of acupuncture in most instances is as a form of pain management. It’s thought that the particular points where the needles are inserted release chemicals and stimulate certain nerves in such a way that the body’s natural painkillers are triggered.
Acupuncture has been used to treat numerous conditions, including the following:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tooth and mouth pain
- Fibromyalgia (chronic pain and tenderness in the body)
- Pain during labor and childbirth
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease)
- Respiratory disorders
- Sports-related injuries
John Hopkins Medicine lists additional conditions that could potentially benefit from acupuncture, from infertility to addiction.
While acupuncture has historically been used to treat physical symptoms and conditions, it is now increasingly common to find acupuncture for mental health and substance use addiction.
The effectiveness of acupuncture
The use of acupuncture as a supplemental or holistic therapeutic technique has grown in the past few decades. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, between 2002 and 2012 the use of acupuncture increased by 50 percent in the United States and was most commonly used for pain management.
With increasingly widespread use, many have wondered about the effectiveness of acupuncture as a form of treatment.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that studies in animals and humans have shown that acupuncture performed on various parts of the body stimulates the central nervous system. Moreover, studies have shown that acupuncture impacts the tissues where the needles are inserted, especially connective tissues.
Other studies have shown that acupuncture has shown benefits for individuals with chronic pain and other health conditions, most notably back, neck and joint pain.
It has been argued that the effectiveness of acupuncture may be due to placebo and non-specific effects, such as a patient’s belief in the efficacy of the procedure or the patient’s relationship with the practitioner.
Acupuncture for mental health
The origins of acupuncture are specifically in regards to treating physical conditions, but many have wondered if the stress-relieving properties of the practices could also apply to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
A 2018 meta-analysis of 64 studies of acupuncture for individuals with major depressive disorder showed that acupuncture can moderately reduce the severity of depression compared to typical treatment or no treatment at all. These studies do not indicate that acupuncture was a treatment to cure depression, but could be one method of decreasing its impact.
Acupuncture for addiction
Many people in recovery have sought alternatives to treatment that involves medication. Especially for those who experience co-occurring substance use disorders and chronic pain, it’s reasonable to seek out options other than opioids or other painkillers.
For this reason, acupuncture for addiction may be an appealing complementary therapy.
Proponents of acupuncture tend to rely on the traditional Chinese emphasis on balancing energy. Numerous points in the ear are thought to assist addicts with impulse control and cravings. Those who partake in acupuncture for addiction report sessions help them to feel balanced and able to connect with their emotions instead of seeking substances to manage feelings.
Health benefits of acupuncture
The most notable potential benefit of acupuncture is the targeted pain-relieving effects. Pain medications cycle through the entire body and acupuncture may be sought by people who are eager to avoid medications and focus on a specific area of pain.
According to an article by the Harvard Medical School, the benefits of acupuncture may be short-lived. Moreover, the article suggests that other forms of therapy may be more cost-effective in comparison to acupuncture. Physical therapy, for example, shows much more promising and long-term effects for addressing pain and other medical conditions.
While the benefits of acupuncture may be limited, there are few to no adverse effects of this therapeutic technique. Any risks that the intervention pose are minimal, so it may be worth considering if you’re interested in alternative therapies.
Acupuncture for addiction may have benefits for those with chronic pain and co-occurring mental health conditions. The treatment offers potential stress-relieving properties and can be sought as a non-medicinal alternative technique for pain management.
Acupuncture can be incorporated into a treatment plan as part of a holistic approach. By addressing the mind, body and spirit, addiction recovery is more sustainable, more personal and more effective. If you’re eager to embrace an approach that aims to heal the whole person, reach out to Silvermist Recovery.
At Silvermist Recovery you can find a wide variety of alternative therapies that are incorporated into evidence-based treatment. Take advantage of nature therapy, art therapy, yoga, meditation, mindfulness and more. Contact us to learn more about how you can benefit from whole-person care.