Supporters of acupuncture claim that placing needles in certain points on the body can stimulate the central nervous system, reducing anxiety. While some studies on this technique show positive results, the evidence is limited.

Several studies have found that acupuncture can help with anxiety in specific situations, such as anxiety about visiting the dentist. However, fewer studies have analyzed its effectiveness in treating longer-term anxiety disorders.

The studies investigating acupuncture’s effects on generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptoms are promising. That said, more research is necessary to prove that acupuncture can reliably treat anxiety.

Read on to learn more about acupuncture for anxiety.

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Acupuncture may help with anxiety for some people. There have been studies that showed this therapy reduced anxiety symptoms.

For example, an older 2014 study found acupuncture can be effective at reducing preoperative anxiety in comparison with placebo and no treatment at all.

However, these results may not apply to people who experience generalized anxiety that occurs in many situations or have specific anxiety disorders. Because there are different types of anxiety and anxiety disorders, it is important to differentiate how acupuncture affects each one.

A 2021 study found that acupuncture, in combination with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, improved anxiety symptoms. The people in this study lived with a range of anxiety disorders, including panic disorder and GAD.

However, in general, there are few acupuncture studies that focus on its benefits for:

An additional drawback to the existing studies is that they often have small numbers of participants and are not easy to replicate due to study design issues.

People can feel a relaxing sensation within minutes of an acupuncture practitioner inserting the needles. The number of acupuncture sessions a person needs to notice a reduction in their anxiety overall will vary.

Some acupuncturists claim a person may experience an improvement in their symptoms after one or two sessions.

There are several acupuncture points that could help relieve anxiety. This article focuses on five of them:

1. Yintang (EXHN3)

Yintang is an acupuncture point between the eyebrows.

Several small preliminary studies have found that people consistently report feeling less anxious before an operation after receiving acupuncture on Yintang. Practitioners refer to Yintang as the “third eye” and believe it has a mentally stabilizing effect.

2. Heart 7 (HT7)

Heart 7 is an acupuncture point on the crease of the wrist.

One animal study that investigated the stimulation of Heart 7 found it reduced anxiety related to alcohol exposure. If more robust studies can replicate these findings in humans, the stimulation of Heart 7 may have clinical applications by improving anxiety relating to alcohol misuse.

3. Baihui (GV 20)

Bauhui is an acupuncture point at the top of the head.

Because the location of Bauhui is at the highest point of the head, acupuncturists claim it can clear the mind and uplift spirits. For this reason, its therapeutic applications can include the treatment of anxiety, dizziness, headache, and stroke.

Currently, research investigating the application of Baihui tends to involve animal studies but not human studies.

4. Shenmen (HT7)

Shenmen is an acupuncture point on the wrist. According to a 2022 study, applying electroacupuncture to the Shenmen can improve anxiety, sleep regulation, and depression in people with insomnia.

During electroacupuncture, acupuncturists place needles in the skin and apply a small amount of electricity through them. This gives a soft hum or vibration during treatment.

5. Hegu (LI4)

Hegu is an acupuncture point between the base of the thumb and the index finger.

In one 2020 study, researchers investigated if acupuncture, in addition to dietary and lifestyle changes, improved mood in people with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). They found that individuals who received acupuncture experienced a greater reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms than those who did not.

This suggests Hegu and other acupuncture points may have a mood-lifting effect in people with PCOS, although whether this applies to those without the condition is unknown.

Everybody reacts to acupuncture differently. Before booking a session, it is important to consider the risks involved and speak with a doctor.

This is especially important for people who have bleeding disorders, weakened immune systems, or chronic skin conditions that the needles may affect.

A person should only receive acupuncture from a licensed acupuncture practitioner. A doctor or other healthcare professional may be able to recommend a reputable acupuncture clinic.

In the United States, some states have legislation to ensure that people who practice acupuncture have the relevant qualifications and training necessary to administer treatment. However, people need to consider that the requirements vary from state to state. A person can find a U.S. board certifiedand licensed acupuncturist at the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine’s website.

The cost of acupuncture varies between clinics, but the average price for one session is $75. However, individuals need to be aware there is usually a consultation fee on the first visit. This includes an initial assessment, which typically costs around $100.

Follow-up sessions are slightly cheaper and usually cost $70 each, and some locations may be more expensive than others. For example, in larger cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, acupuncture clinics may charge a lot more per session.

Acupuncture may help reduce anxiety symptoms in some people. However, high quality research is lacking and often includes animal studies or small sample sizes, so it is uncertain if this treatment works reliably in humans.

The acupuncture points that have some evidence for improving anxiety, or more generally, mood, include Yintang (EXHN3), Heart 7 (HT7), Baihui (GV 20), Shenmen (HT7), and Hegu (LI4).

Before booking an acupuncture session, it is important to speak with a doctor to discuss the risks and potential side effects of acupuncture.