Posted by Diane Peterson

In the U.S. alone, mental depression affects over 21 million individuals annually and is the leading cause for disability. Mental depression is generally viewed as a condition found most often in industrial societies even though there is controversy regarding the accuracy of this conclusion.

There are several different types of mental depression recognized by the medical establishment, and the treatment protocols generally range from psychotherapy to prescribed medications. Psychotherapy appears to be the most popular form of management for people under 20 years of age. The use of prescribed anti-depressant medications is the most frequently used protocol for depression in the U.S. 

Of interest is the following; published and unpublished studies of 12 anti-depressant medications were submitted to the FDA in 2004. The published reports indicated a 94% success rate when treating depression with anti-depressant drugs. The unpublished (withheld) literature indicated that these drugs were less than 50% effective. These combined studies showed an overall efficacy rate of 51%; just marginally higher than the placebo trial. 

The increasing numbers of those diagnosed with depression within modernized countries has led to a search for more optional treatment protocols to be used either in conjunction with standard medical treatments or as separate methods altogether. 

Acupuncture is one of the optional protocols which have been shown, either alone or in combination with specific supplementation to, in many cases, parallel or exceed prescribed medication protocols for the management of depression.  The mindset of acupuncture may tend to be far reaching for many, particularly in the west, but what becomes intriguing is the original concept itself, steeped in a history of close observation. 

In college, many may recall one of the most feared of required courses; physics. Casually introducing the reluctant student to this “mentally demanding” subject can be challenging. The perceptive instructor who is sensitive to this may hand out one book which can liberate the western thought process from its traditional dualistic position; “The Tao of Physics” which breaks down the concepts in Physics and its theories to a more palatable, less confining format. The thought processes of historical Chinese science and philosophy tend to revolve around descriptive adjectives and dimensional thinking, unlike the western dualistic, linear mind set. Dualistic (western) thought often focuses on only one aspect of concepts rather than how seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world.  As an example, the tendency of Asian thought is; hot (yang)/cold (yin), excess (yang)/deficiency (yin), and heavy (yang)/light (yin). In western thought, we frequently think in terms of isolated specifics and only those particular specifics. For example; depression, and to eradicate the depression alone rather than observe the other conditions which may have led to, supported or enhanced the manifestation of the condition.  

In Chinese medicine, depression is generally thought of as types of stagnation, excesses and deficiencies and the protocol is usually directed at moving these stagnant conditions, diminishing the excess and supporting the qi, or energy. Qi’s concept in eastern philosophy is similar to “energy on the cusp of transitioning into matter” and is an important concept in acupuncture. It is interesting to note that in the acupuncture protocol more than one directive is attended to in order to establish a more thorough outcome. 

There is a specific acupuncture protocol used for the various types of depression which has been shown to be surprisingly effective; about 70% improvement noted in clinics. The treatment entails the following: with the patient face down, needle insertion (usually painless) is implemented on 6 specific points near the spine with the needles left in for a time of no more than 15 minutes. The needles are then removed, the patient then lies on their back and another 4 specific points are needled for an additional 15 minutes. This one treatment alone (without supplementation or medications) has been shown to demonstrate nothing less than dramatic results, even in cases of suicidal behavior. 

This response demonstrates a very positive outlook regarding the possibilities of additional therapies for the treatment of this potential debilitating condition as well as the prospects of utilizing acupuncture for addressing many other health conditions. 

Acupuncture itself may still hold a relatively “exoctic”concept for many westerners but with the historical experience and track record of this type of medical practice (much longer than newly founded western medicine) and the continuing “surprising” benefits that are propagated from its use, the rational of not implementing it for many health conditions is nearing absurdity.


-  By Kevin Meehan