Stress – Research

Stress is a common complaint cited by acupuncture patients, with a variety of possible associated symptoms. The most prevalent of these is anxiety. There are also factsheets on other conditions that are affected by stress, such as back pain, chronic pain, depression, headache, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, menopausal symptoms, migraines, premenstrual syndrome and urinary incontinence.

Aside from such associated conditions, there is little clinical research on stress per se. One small randomised controlled trial (RCT) suggested that acupuncture might be successful in improving the symptoms of chronic stress (1).

 A crossover study with healthy individuals subjected to stress testing found acupuncture at a point indicated for stress was more effective than a ‘control’ point (2). Several uncontrolled studies have looked at various aspects of stress and the effects of acupuncture. One found that it might be effective in attenuating psychological distress, as well as increasing cellular immunity (3). In a small pilot study, the use of one particular acupuncture point led to marked reductions in stress (4).

In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being.


  1. Huang W et al. An investigation into the effectiveness of traditional Chinese acupuncture (TCA) for chronic stress in adults: a randomized controlled pilot study. Complement Ther Clin Pract 2011; 17: 16-21.
  2. Fassoulaki A et al. Pressure applied on the extra 1 acupuncture point reduces bispectral index values and stress in volunteers. Anesth Analg. 2003; 96: 885-90.
  3. Pavao TS et al. Acupuncture is effective to attenuate stress and stimulate lymphocyte proliferation in the elderly. Neurosci Lett 2010; 484: 47-50.
  4. Chan J, et al. An uncontrolled pilot study of HT7 for ‘stress’. Acupunct Med 2002; 20: 74-7