Stress & Anxiety Research
A note on Chinese Medicine research -
Chinese Medicine (usually Acupuncture and herbs) has been used for thousands of years to assist women with their health, from puberty to pregnancy to menopause and beyond. It is an amazing system of medicine that has spread across the globe and helped millions of people. While Chinese Medicine isn't the answer for all people for all conditions, a growing body of research is confirming the efficacy of Chinese Medicine! It isn't always smooth sailing though.
Obtaining large volumes of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine high-quality data can be tricky for three reasons:
- Chinese Medicine individualises its treatments according to the patients presenting symptoms. The beauty of it is that you’re receiving personalised care. This doesnt fit very well into a scientific trial where everything needs to be standardised in order to ‘prove’ that something works.
- Its hard to rule out the placebo effect. Excellent studies have a group comparing the treatment to a ‘fake treatment’ to see which is better. Its hard to do ‘fake Acupuncture’. Given theres more than 300 Acupuncture points on the body, even when researchers choose an Acupuncture point away from the other Acupuncture points, it may be very close to another point thats having a positive effect on the body, which confuses results.
While its very important to prove that Acupuncture works better than doing nothing, better than the standard of care treatments AND better than placebo, its important to know that placebo effects play a role in any kind of medicine/trial and is often hard to rule out. Eg feeling better after seeing a doctor or taking a tablet.
- While there is some excellent research coming out across the globe from universities and other institutions, big research projects cost lots of money and that kind of funding isnt always easily accessible for Chinese Medicine research.
Some useful jargon to know:
The most conclusive form of research available is a Systematic Review. This reviews many Randomized Control Trials (RCT’s – subjects don't know which treatment they are getting) and takes into consideration how good the methodology of the studies are. A systematic review may say there isn't much proof if some studies aren't well conducted, don't contain a big enough sample size or if some study results contradict other study results - so finding systematic reviews 'proving' a finding can be challenging in all fields of science and there may well be positive evidence but just not enough.
Acupuncture & stress -
This review by Qian-Qian Li et al 2013 found there’s emerging evidence to suggest the way Acupuncture works is to alleviate the ‘fight or flight’ response and restore balance within the brain and in the body.
“Emerging evidence indicates that Acupuncture treatment not only activates distinct brain regions in different kinds of diseases caused by imbalance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic activities but also modulates adaptive neurotransmitter in related brain regions to alleviate autonomic response.”
A 2018 Systematic Review of 13 research papers by Amorim et al, showed Acupuncture may be effective for anxiety disorders.
“Overall, there is good scientific evidence encouraging Acupuncture therapy to treat anxiety disorders as it yields effective outcomes, with fewer side effects than conventional treatment. More research in this area is however needed.”
While more studies are needed to confirm these results, this Systematic Review of 30 studies by Shergis et al in 2016 found Acupuncture may be effective for insomnia.
“Acupuncture compared to sham/placebo and pharmacotherapy showed statistically significant results”