Perhaps you’ve heard of acupuncture for low back or neck pain but did you know… acupuncture is amazing for treating anxiety?


Girl experiencing anxiety


That blanket-statement term for general unease and discomfort in the body.



Anxiety symptoms vary massively from person-to-person:

For some, it’s physical:

    • a queasy stomach
    • chest tightness that doesn’t release no matter how much you stretch
    • a racing, thumping heart

For others, it’s cognitive:

    • replaying conversations over and over
    • circular thinking
    • trying to plan out every possible scenario and stressing what could go wrong

For many, it’s a mix of both.

It can range from being mildly annoying for some to completely debilitating for others.  Either way, if you’ve been an unlucky victim of anxiety, you know that it can be downright miserable.




Anxiety is one of my favorite (and most popular) things I treat in the clinic and that’s because I’ve dealt with it myself. Kacie using acupuncture for anxiety

Acupuncture is one of the tools that gives my patients a sense of relief the fastest. I often hearwow, I haven’t felt that relaxed in a long timeafter their 30 minute session.  If you haven’t had it before, you may be wondering… but just HOW can sticking needles in someone make them more relaxed?

Well read on my friend, this post is for you!




girl experiencing anxiety attack


Just by sticking the needles into the body it triggers a Parasympathetic response. 

The Parasympathetic is a fancy name for the “rest + digest” part of the nervous system that creates a calming and restorative function within the body.

Chronic stress reduces serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters associated with happiness and feelings of wellbeing. Reduced serotonin and other neurotransmitters can create anxiety symptoms



Acupuncture needles make a micro-injury in the skin that sends a message up to the brain to activate the parasympathetic system.  This results in a chain reaction of releasing anti-stress hormones and endorphins like dopamine, serotonin, and GABA.

How cool is that?!

Acupuncture helps balance these neurotransmitters and stress hormones to reduce anxiety symptoms. 


(That’s why it’s so common to hear your belly start to gurgle or why you get uber relaxed during an acupuncture session. The nervous system finally feels safe and calm enough to digest food, as well as start healing and repairing the body!)





Acupuncture also effects opioid receptors in the brain, which control pain, reward, and addictive behavior.  It helps to rewire these neurological feedback loops to break the addiction and chronic pain cycles. Acupuncture can even be incredibly helpful with smoking, drinking and food addictions when used in conjunction with other therapies.

“FUN” FACT: We humans can actually become addicted to anxiety especially if we’ve had it for a long time. When we are used to chaos and overstimulating environments, calm or peaceful situations feel foreign and put the body into the “something’s not right” state which makes it very difficult to be calm and peaceful

meditation for anxiety

That’s one of the reasons why some people with anxiety have a hard time sitting down to meditate or laying on still on the acupuncture table at first.  It can put them into fight-flight because their body is addicted to stimulation and feels uncomfortable being still. Over time and with repeated practice, you can retrain your body to feel safe in calm and still environments. 





Brain scans have shown that acupuncture decreases activity in the amygdala and hypothalamus (the parts of the brain involved in the fight-flight reflex). They regulate and control emotions, thought processes, hormones and autonomic nervous functions (breathing, heart rate, the things our body controls automatically). 

They are activated by stress, pain and negative emotions and often operate at a subconscious level, meaning they effect our “programs” that we run on autopilot during the day without even thinking. 


This is another reason why acupuncture is so amazing for anxiety…

it reduces:

  • the EMOTIONAL aspect of overthinking and reactivity
  • the PHYSICAL symptoms of anxiety
  • but also affects you at a deep SUBCONSCIOUS level to treat the root of your issue





Our digestive system is one of the major organs that connects us to the outside world starting from our mouths down to our booty holes. It has direct contact with the “outside world” through what we eat, drink, and even communicate. This makes it a VIP sensory organ and one that has a direct correlation with anxiety.

acupuncture for gut health




Inside our digestive tract and specifically our large intestine, we have trillions of bacteria. Yeah, you’re literally covered in them inside and out, and it’s not a bad thing. Many of them are actually helpful and absolutely vital to our daily functioning.


trillions of bacteria in our gut

Certain bacteria in the gut help to make neurotransmitters (dopamine, GABA, serotonin, etc) that make us feel good and motivated.  When our guts have inflammation, infections or dysbiosis (aka there’s too much ‘bad’ bacteria taking over the system and it’s out of balance), we don’t make as many of those feel-good chemical messengers as we need to in order to feel balanced, thus resulting in anxiety, depression, lack of motivation and brain fog. 



Acupuncture helps to decrease inflammation and regulate your immune system to subdue infections or bacterial overgrowth. That way those helpful bacteria can get back to their regularly scheduled programming. 





Acupuncture also helps to regulate the Vagus nerve, the Most Valuable Player of the Parasympathetic system. 

vagus nerve

The Vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body and the word “vagus” means “wanderer” in Latin, which accurately represents how the nerve wanders all over the body and has a wide-reaching effect on so many of our different organ systems.

It influences your breathing, gut function and heart rate, all of which can have a huge impact on your mental health and experience of anxiety. 

Acupuncture increases ‘vagal tone’ and having good vagal tone means that your body can relax and bounce back faster after stress. 

If our guts are inflamed or out-of-whack, the Vagus nerve sends that message to the brain that something isn’t right and… cue anxiety.

That’s one of the many reasons healing our gut is SO important and often overlooked in the treatment and resolution of anxiety!





The link between anxiety and inflammation is of the chicken-or-the-egg variety. Each one can cause the other.

Inflammation causes oxidative or biochemical stress which leads to distress signals in the brain which can then lead to anxiety.

On the other hand, when we’re stressed or have anxiety, the brain releases inflammatory cytokines that increase inflammation in the body. 

Acupuncture reduces inflammation in a number of ways but most notably by systemically reducing cytokines and inflammatory markers.

In addition to acupuncture, the best way to end this vicious inflammatory cycle is to incorporate an anti-inflammatory diet, while creating work/life/stress balance in your life through yoga, meditation, hobbies, dancing, laughing, and any activity that promotes happiness, laughter and feelings of wellbeing.






Pain can trigger anxiety and anxiety can increase pain. When we’ve been injured or have a chronic pain condition, we often have thoughts of “is it always going to be this way?” or “what if I never get better” that can feed into anxiety. 

Simply being in pain increases stress hormones like cortisol that can result in sensations of anxiety.  On the flip side, anxiety produces tension within the body in addition to an increase in inflammatory markers which can heighten the sensation of pain and exacerbate a chronic pain loop.

In the US, acupuncture is probably most well known for it’s pain relief and injury healing capabilities. It can treat chronic injuries like shoulder, low back, knee, sciatic, or neck pain. It can also help expedite healing time for those recovering from surgeries or traumatic injuries.

Whether pain is the root cause of your anxiety or the anxiety is exacerbating your pain, acupuncture can help end the exhausting loop!

Wanna read more? Check out this meta-analysis of 29 studies involving 18,000 patients found acupuncture to be an effective treatment for chronic pain. The doctors specifically note that the results were more than just a placebo effect.





girl can't sleep


Anyone who’s ever suffered from insomnia can tell you how massively it can effect job performance, mood, appetite, and relationships.

A crappy night (or 7) of sleep can create or worsen anxiety symptoms. Those anxiety symptoms can lead to mental rumination that keeps you up or wakes you up and thus results in another night of crappy sleep.  <Cue another yet another vicious cycle>

But have no fear!

Acupuncture helps break the cycle by reducing anxiety to get you asleep faster and stay asleep through the night. It also promotes deeper sleep to lessen the chance of anxiety due to sleep deprivation.

Cycle broken. Symptoms dissipated. 

Many studies show that acupuncture has similar results to insomnia medications but without the harmful side effects such as tolerance, addiction, neurological toxicity, and excessive sedation.

Side note — acupuncture isn’t a one hit wonder and to get these results you’ll have to do multiple sessions although people often report an AMAZING night of sleep post-sesh.


A randomized, controlled study of 62 participants found that acupuncture was effective in improving sleep quality and psychological health in those suffering from insomnia.

But wait, there’s more!

Another systematic review of 46 randomized trials and a total of 3,811 patients showed that acupuncture with/without medication was superior to medication alone in increasing total sleep duration, concluding that it can be an effective treatment for insomnia.





Anxiety can be absolutely debilitating and significantly affect every aspect of day-to-day life., 

It can cause you to miss out on important events like birthdays and holidays or even just keep you living in a constant state of stress or fear. Anxiety can deplete your physical health over time. 

Acupuncture is an effective at treating anxiety as it helps to reduce stress levels, balance hormones and regulate the part of the brain that is responsible for certain emotions and behavioral traits. 

If you’re ready to show anxiety to the door and start living your days with less worry and more laughs, book your consultation today! 

Let’s get you living that vibrant life you deserve!