Acupuncture and Depression
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical technique whereby specific points along the body are stimulated by the penetration of needles. Acupuncture has been practiced in China since the Shang Dynasty, dated to the 14th through 11th centuries BCE. While modern science continues to research and debate the efficacy of acupuncture, proponents claim that it can provide relief for a number of conditions, including depression.
Many individuals who suffer from depression have sought out alternatives to antidepressant medications, which can have side effects such as weight gain or addictive properties. In acupuncture it is believed that the needles may activate natural painkillers in the body.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that electroacupuncture, in which a mild electric current was passed through the acupuncture needles, provided an equal level of symptom reduction as Prozac. Six weeks of this treatment saw elevated levels of GDNF, a neuroprotective protein that decreases in persons suffering from major depressive disorder.
However, some claim that acupuncture provides only a placebo effect, and that individuals undergoing acupuncture feel better simply because they benefit from seeing and being touched by a practitioner on a regular basis. A 2010 Cochrane Review failed to find enough beneficial evidence to recommend acupuncture for treatment.