The Art of Acupuncture for Anxiety Relief

Published June 29th, 2023 by Omechayeadmin

I’ve been seeing a lot of clients with anxiety lately.  Even the most grounded and self aware patients have been noticing they are more anxious. Sometimes the cause of anxiety is very obvious (like an IVF cycle, layoffs at work, something weird happening in a relationship), but sometimes the cause is unknown. The experience of anxiety can be described in a lot of different ways: dark thoughts that come from nowhere, tightness in the chest, palpitations, a gripping sensation in the throat, inability to relax, irritability, the mind speeding up and/or slowing down, a sensation of something rushing up from the belly through the chest to the throat, and or an inability to catch their breath. While the physical sensations can be alarming, anxiety can make you feel like you aren’t yourself and can interfere with all aspects of your life.  If left unchecked, it can lead to other physical problems, such as insomnia, hormonal imbalances, cardiovascular issues and vastly decreased quality of life.  


Acupuncture has been documented in scientific literature as being effective for reducing anxiety of many different causes1234. From chronic anxiety to more situational anxiety, the scientific body of evidence is convincing. Acupuncture works!  What’s a little less clear is how it works, but there is a ton of evidence to show that acupuncture helps regulate the autonomic nervous system by allowing a shift to a parasympathetic state 5.  It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on the brain6.  I like to know science because it helps to explain the results I see daily and others have observed for thousands of years.


When a client comes to see me needing help with anxiety, I look at diagnosis and treatment from a multilayered approach.  I use 3 different assessments:  

1) I take into account the Constitutional Factor. Five element acupuncture theory states that all people have a psychological and behavioral disposition to think and behave in certain ways that resemble how the 5 elements behave in nature. When we are young, we adopt certain ways of seeing and being in the world, and these patterns are observable. In practice, when I meet a patient, I am always aware and observing for these patterns. Understanding the Constitutional Factor is crucial for making the most powerful point choices that can help you return to feeling more like yourself fast.

2) The way a client experiences anxiety in their body is of paramount importance when designing a treatment. My goal is to shift the tension so that the sensations of anxiety melt away. When that shift occurs, the mind also relaxes. After spending 30 minutes in a centered quiet space, the client leaves feeling relaxed and safe. Sometimes, at the end of the session, their relationship with themself and the world has changed.

3) I always assess internal root patterns that can cause anxiety. I want to provide fast results that stick, and herbs and acupuncture combined approach the problem from 2 different ways. Customized herbal medicine is incredibly effective at working on deficiencies and clearing blockages that can lead to the development of feelings of anxiety. Now, at the height of summer, I am observing that a lot of people are suffering from yin deficiency, deficient heat, summer heat, damp and excessive heat. I have an onsite pharmacy where I combine over 300 different herbs to create custom herbal formulas.


East Asian medicine works somatically and energetically, and treatment designed to address the constitution, the physical sensations, and the root pattern giving rise to anxiety tends to make people feel more relaxed and safe in the body. With repeated sessions, the effect lasts longer and longer, and clients often notice that their whole outlook shifts and the way they feel in their body, view and interact with the world is more relaxed. I will often see clients twice a week for acupuncture and alter their formulas weekly at the start of treatment to help get the anxiety under control.  After that, usually clients want to come once a week after that for a month or 2, and then as needed in the future for maintenance.


Wondering if acupuncture is right for you? Book an appointment with Coco Fortner A.P. Dipl.O.M. now!

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