A new animal study conducted by researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center suggests that acupuncture may be an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain, and possibly even depression. The findings have been published in the journal Endocrinology.
For the study, researchers divided rat subjects into four groups—one was a control group with no stress or acupuncture treatment, while the other three were exposed to cold as a stressor. Of the three cold-exposed groups, one group didn’t receive any acupuncture and the second received “sham” acupuncture (not at a real acupuncture point). The third group was treated repeatedly for 10 days with electro-acupuncture (which ensures equal distribution of stimulation) to a specific acupuncture point known as the stomach meridian point 36.
Researchers observed that the stressed rats that did not receive treatment showed higher levels of depressed and anxious behavior. However, in the rats that received the proper electro-acupuncture treatment, there was diminished activity in the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, which is the neurological pathway that is linked to pain, immune system response, emotions, and mood.
This effect of electro-acupuncture on the HPA in turn reduced the production of certain stress hormones, a similar effect seen with the use of some anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs. The acupuncture worked to inhibit stress hormones as a pre-treatment, but also worked just as well when administered in the minutes following exposure to stress.
According to the study’s lead authors, this breakthrough study provides a useful framework for future research surrounding the benefits of acupuncture on chronic stress.
Source for Today’s Article:
Eshkevari, L., et al., “Effects of Acupuncture, RU-486 on the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis in Chronically Stressed Adult Male Rats,” Endocrinology 2015, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/EN.2015-1018.