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Acupuncture Therapy in Utah: Does it Work?

Acupuncture Therapy in Utah: Does it Work?

For those Utah residents who are new to the idea, let’s start with an overview: Acupuncture is the stimulation of certain points in the body through the insertion of thin needles, often paired with topical treatment, heat therapy, and/or suction cups. The process is rarely painful, although some people may still be nervous about the idea of feeling the needles at all. (They may be inserted anywhere from a few millimeters to a few inches depending on location. With proper training and needle standardization, the risks are minimal, but it’s essential to seek out a reputable provider because infections and other serious side effects have been known to occur.


How it Works

In terms of its effectiveness, the answer is yes and no. There is strong evidence to suggest that endogenous opioids, neurotransmitters, and hormones are all released and/or altered during acupuncture. However, the location, classification, and importance of hitting certain spots in the body—acupoints and meridians—remains controversial at best. People who receive this treatment often fare better than no-treatment control groups but about the same as placebo control groups. In other words, it’s possible that acupuncture works, but it only works because it creates an expectation of improvement in the individual.

But here’s something else to think about: This characterization can just as easily be applied to prescription antidepressants. We know that SSRIs inhibit the reuptake of serotonin, but we have no idea how this translates into an improved mood. Meanwhile, new evidence suggests that antidepressants may also work, mostly or entirely, through placebo effects.


What it Works for

The most common use is pain relief, but for mental health, acupuncture has also been used to treat depression, anxiety, addiction, schizophrenia, and PTSD. You can get a sense for the amount of supporting evidence for the treatment of each condition through the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Rather than a blooming “cure-all” treatment, there could be something about these conditions and the somatic experience of skin therapy that more easily lends itself to placebo effects.


Seeking Acupuncture Therapy in Utah

With this overview in mind, we encourage Utah residents to learn more about acupuncture and make their own judgments. Here’s something that does reliably improve one’s mental health: Increasing the control one has over their decision-making and behaviors. Maybe acupuncture with its somatic, tactile experience makes sense for you. Maybe yoga, meditation, hypnotherapy, or some other complementary therapy better speaks to your individual tastes.

More to this point, don’t seek out this therapy with the idea that it’s an easy fix. Those who think they can merely lie on a table, get stuck with a bunch of needles, and get cured aren’t likely to receive much benefit. Placebos notwithstanding, there is no magic wand to wave away a serious bout of anxiety or depression.


Sustained Improvement with Mental Health Therapy

Here’s our final recommendation: It’s one thing if you’re looking to nurture positive mental health in general, but if you have reason to believe that you have a serious problem with depression, anxiety, or some other mental health condition, reach out to a mental health professional. Placebo effects may provide an important boost, but they may also be short-lived. Working with a licensed therapist can help “lock-in” these gains through a series of talk therapy sessions.


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