Acupuncture has been used in eastern medicine for hundreds of years, in a number of physical and mental health conditions. Among other effects, acupuncture has been shown to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. Acupuncture may transiently affect a number of hormones in the central nervous system, including serotonin, noradrenaline, and beta-endorphins.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Electroacupuncture has been shown to be effective in decreasing clinical severity scores when used in conjunction with ongoing SRI treatment in a wait-list control study. Patients with inadequate response to their SRI treatment were given 12 sessions of electroacupuncture (5 times per week) over a period of approximately two weeks. Subjects receiving the electroacupuncture treatment demonstrated significantly greater OCD symptom improvement compared to those in the wait-list control group.
Tourette’s Syndrome. Acupuncture was shown to be beneficial in treating the symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome in a sample of 24 adults and in the treatment of hypochondriac pain. A larger sample of 156 children and adolescents with Tourette’s Syndrome found that 92.3% of patients reported significant symptom reduction.
Trichotillomania. A study in which 44 women with Hair Pulling Disorder were interviewed about what they found to be effective treatments for their condition found that neither of the 2 patients who received acupuncture found it to be effective.
Initiation and Ongoing Treatment
Acupuncture should not be considered a stand-alone treatment for OCD. For OCD, acupuncture has only been shown to be effective in conjunction with recommended treatments such as SRIs or behavioral or cognitive therapies. In the case of Tourette’s Syndrome, research suggests that children and adolescents may benefit significantly from acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture is not recommended for Trichotillomania. Acupuncture has been shown to be particularly effective in treating mood and anxiety symptoms and should be considered as an adjunctive treatment for patients presenting with co-occurring depression or anxiety. It should only be undertaken by trained practitioners who use standard equipment and sterile practices.
Risks and Side Effects
Minimal risks are associated with acupuncture treatment, when undertaken by trained practitioners. Irritation of the skin, mild bruising, or residual itching surrounding the site of needle application may occur. Other side effects may include mild nausea, dizziness, or light-headedness but should resolve shortly after the cessation of treatment.