Depression and Acupuncture, Essendon

 

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introduction

Depression is a clinical mood disorder that causes ongoing feelings of sadness and loss of interest, amongst others (Mayo Clinic, 2018). Depression is more than just feeling sad or 'having the blues' though. It is a persistent feeling, that may or may not be attached to an event or trigger, and you can't just snap out of it (Health Direct, 2017). Depression is often characterised as feeling sad, but can also include feeling numb, or just not having any motivation. Common symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad, down, or empty for large parts of the day, most days
  • Feelings of tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Outbursts of anger, irritability or frustration
  • Withdrawing from friends or family, social isolation
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, like hobbies, sports or sex
  • Low energy, fatigue and reduced activity
  • Weight loss and no appetite or interest in food; or increased appetite and weight gain
  • Trouble concentrating, thinking or remembering things
  • Anxiety, agitation and restlessness
  • Unexplained physical symptoms, such as aches and pains, headaches, etc.
  • Digestive problems
  • Feeling sick and run down
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt, self-blame, fixating on past problems
  • Symptoms of anxiety are commonly found in people with depression, as they are often found together

(Health Direct, 2017; May Clinic, 2018; Black Dog Institute, 2018). 

Depression can affect people differently depending on their age, gender, social background, etc. But essentially, if you have felt down for more than 2 weeks you should consider seeking assistance to feel better.

Like anxiety, depression is also a fairly common experience in our society. On average, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 8 men will experience depression in Australia (Beyond Blue, 2018). Having depression can have long lasting ramifications on your life, making it difficult to connect with friends and family, feel motivated with work and study, or just to experience life the way you want to live.

Depression and Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks at the entire body system, including both physical conditions and emotional symptoms, and treatments are uniquely tailored to individual patients with the goal of healing the body and mind, as well as revitalising the spirit. TCM views depression as being caused by either not enough qi (energy) in the body, or a block in the flow of energy through the body. In general, the first type will present with tiredness, flat mood, no motivation for life, and a sense of heaviness in the body. The second type will present as more pent up, have muscle aches and pain, sore shoulders, and tension headaches. There will usually be a crossover between the two though, soy may have symptoms of both types.

A number of recent studies have shown that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for depression, either as a stand alone treatment, or in combination with other therapies. Bosch et al. (2015) found that acupuncture improved the quality of life for people with depression, in particular the quality of sleep. Sleep dysregulation is a common component of depression, where you might either be not sleeping well, or you might be sleeping too much, and having difficulty getting up and out of bed in the morning. Either way, improving sleep is a key factor that helps to improve depressed mood.

Chan et al. (2015) looked at whether anti-depressant medication treatment with Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI's - the most common form of anti-depressant) on their own was as good as treating with both SSRI's and acupuncture. They found that the combination of acupuncture and SSRI's was better at treating depression than SSRI's alone. Also, they found that combining acupuncture and SSRI's is effective, has a quick onset of action, and is safe and well tolerated as a treatment protocol. 

And Spackman et al. (2014) was looking at the cost-effectiveness of different treatments for depression, namely acupuncture, counselling or usual care. Acupuncture was found to be a more cost-effective treatment than counselling or usual care, which is essentially saying that for every dollar you put in to treating your depression, you'll get a better result from acupuncture.

In a study that looked at people with both chronic pain and depression, acupuncture with counselling was found to be both clinically effective as well as cost-effective (MacPherson et al., 2017). And in a qualitative study that interviewed women who were experiencing depression during pregnancy, results showed that they felt they had "gained relief" from their symptoms, and they felt the results continued on after the acupuncture session had finished (Ormsby et a., 2017). 

what to expect

Your acupuncture session will last about an hour, with the needles in for about 25-30 minutes. In your initial appointment, I will ask about all aspects of how depression is affecting you, including mentally, physically and emotionally. I will also ask about other aspects of your health and lifestyle, and find out about how your normal life is being affected. In Chinese medicine, we also assess qualities of the body through tongue and pulse diagnosis, which will give me a more complete picture of not only how depression is affecting you at the moment, but the underlying condition that has brought it about.

I will then get you to lie on the massage table to begin the acupuncture treatment. For most people acupuncture is a very relaxing experience, with a lot of people falling asleep on the table. I use very fine acupuncture needles that are about as thick as a human hair. You may feel a small pinch as the needle is inserted, and afterwards you might feel the area getting warm, or feel a slight heaviness in the area. I'll then leave you alone to relax for about half an hour, leaving the needles to do their work. 

After the session I'll check in with you to see how you're feeling, and I might give you some dietary or lifestyle advice. I may also prescribe either Chinese or Western herbal medicine for you to take inbetween appointments.

 

To book your acupuncture appointment today, please call the clinic on 9337 8572. If you have any questions or queries, please don't hesitate to get in touch at lachlan@essendonnaturalhealth.com.au.

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References

Black Dog Institute (2018). Depression: Signs & symptoms of depression. [Online] Available at: https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/clinical-resources/depression/what-is-depression [Accessed 2 June 2018]

Bosch, P., van den Noort, M., Staudte, H. & Lim, S. (2015), Schizophrenia and Depression: A systematic review of the effectiveness and the working mechanism behind acupuncture. Explore, 11 (4), 281-291. 

Chan, Y.Y., Lo, W.Y., Yang, S.N., Chen, Y.H. & Lin, J.G. (2015). The benefit of combined acupuncture and antidepressant medication for depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 176, 106-117.

Health Direct (2017). Depression: Symptoms, types, treatments. [Online] Available at: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/depression [Accessed 2 June 2018]

MacPherson, H., Vickers, A., Bland, M., Torgersen, D., Corbett, M., Spackman, E., Saramango, P., Woods, B., Weatherly, H., Sculpher, M., Manca, A., Richmond, S., Hopton, A., Eldred, J. & Watt, I. (2017). Acupuncture for chronic pain and depression in primary care: a programme of research. Programme Grants for Applied Research, 5, (3). 

Mayo Clinic (2018). Depression: Major depressive disorder. [Online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007 [Accessed 2 June 2018]

Ormsby, S.M., Dahlen, H.G. & Smith, C.A. (2017). Women's experiences of having depression during pregnancy and receiving acupuncture treatment: A qualitative study. Women and Birth, 2017, Nov.15, 1-10. 

Spackman, E., Richmond, S., Sculpher, M., Bland, M., Brealey, S., Gabe, R., Hopton, A., Keding, A., Lansdown, H., Perren, S., Torgersen, D., Watt, I. & MacPherson, H. (2014). Cost-effectiveness analysis of acupuncture, counselling and usual care in treating patients with depression: the results of the ACUDep trial. PLoS ONE, 9 (11), DOI: 10.137/journal.pone.0113726.