Does Acupuncture Help Depression?

Acupuncture Helps Depression
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If you are seeking a non-drug solution to your depression, acupuncture may be appealing to you. But,is acupuncture for depression a good idea? A 2010 update to the Cochrane Report on this topic provides us with an answer.

To prepare the updated report, three investigators from the University of Western Sydney, Australia examined all the medical literature that they could find on published and unpublished randomized controlled trials comparing acupuncture with either sham acupuncture, no treatment, drug treatment, psychotherapy or standard care.

The data included 2,812 adult men and women with diagnosed clinical depression who participated in 30 different studies.

Meta-analyses were performed on the data, with primary outcomes being reduction in the severity of depression (based upon self-rating or clinician-rated scales) and an improvement in depression (defined as remission v. no remission).

Most of the studies looked at showed a high risk of bias. In other words, there was a strong risk that they would either over- or underestimate the true effect that acupuncture had on depression. Also, most of the studies compared either manual or electroacupuncture with medication and found no effect between groups. In addition, there was little evidence that acupuncture was consistently better than a wait list control or a sham acupuncture treatment.

Two trials did, however, find that acupuncture added to an antidepressant was better than an antidepressant alone.

The authors' overall conclusion? At this time, there is just not enough evidence in favor of acupuncture's effectiveness for them to make a recommendation for its use.

Do these results mean that acupuncture will not help you? Not necessarily. It simply means that the currently available body of research can not be used to prove that it does help.

Over time, as more, better-constructed studies become available the picture may change.

Acupuncture is a generally safe treatment with few to no side effects. If you choose to try acupuncture to help with your depression, it's important to remember that it's still important to work with your doctor to ensure that you are getting the standard treatment that you will need.


Smith CA, Hay PPJ, MacPherson H. Acupuncture for depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD004046. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004046.pub3.

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