Acupuncture can help treat depression, researchers reveal.sellyourseoul/Flickr

Acupuncture can help treat depression, researchers reveal.

Acupuncture, which originated in ancient China, is a treatment that involves inserting thin, solid needles into acupuncture points in the skin.

Depression is the outcome of chemical changes in the brain caused by stress or hormonal changes. It is crucial to detect and treat the problem early as delayed treatment worsens the situation and will lead to self-destructive behaviour and even suicide.

The condition is normally treated by using antidepressants and counselling. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are some of commonly prescribed antidepressants.

Most medicines have been known to cause severe side effects in people. According to the Mayo Clinic in the US, side effects vary with each antidepressant. Delayed orgasm, decreased sexual desire, headache, insomnia, excessive sweating, fast heart rate, constipation, seizures, diarrhoea, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, dry mouth, confusion and weight gain are some of them, making people hesitate to take them.

In the new study, researchers from the University of York in the UK found that acupuncture therapy was equally effective as counselling in improving depression symptoms.

For the study, Dr Hugh MacPherson from the Department of Health Sciences at York and colleagues selected 755 patients with depression, for 12 weekly sessions of different types of treatments.

The participants were divided into three groups, according to the treatment they received - either acupuncture (320) or counselling (320), with the usual care or treatment that focused only on the usual care (151). The treatment continued for one year.

In three months, usual care with acupuncture or counselling helped the participants manage their depression better than usual care alone. However, both treatments yielded results equal to the usual care at 12 months.

"To our knowledge, our study is the first to rigorously evaluate the clinical and economic impact of acupuncture and counselling for patients in primary care who are representative of those who continue to experience depression in primary care," Dr MacPherson, said in a news release. "We have provided evidence that acupuncture versus usual care and counselling versus usual care are both associated with a significant reduction in symptoms of depression in the short to medium term, and are not associated with serious adverse events."

The study has been published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), acupuncture can be used to treat a wide range of diseases. Stroke, morning sickness, knee pain, headache, depression, hypertension, induce labour pain, dysentery, low back pain, dental pain, rheumatoid arthritis and renal colic are some of them.

Previous studies have shown that acupuncture is effective in managing fatigue related to breast cancer treatments and improving IVF pregnancy success.

However, the therapy is not completely free from side effects. According to the Mayo Clinic in the US, acupuncture can increase the risk of soreness, organ injury (lungs) and infections (hepatitis). Persons with bleeding disorders, who have a pacemaker placed in the chest or abdomen, and pregnant women are at greater risk of developing these complications.