The Combined Effect of Acupuncture & Psychotherapy on Depressive Episodes
Bob Flaws, Dipl. Ac. & C.H., Lic. Ac., FNAAOM, FRCHM
Keywords: Chinese medicine, acupuncture, psychotherapy, depression, depressive episodes
In issue #2, 2003 of Tian Jin Zhong Yi Yao (Tianjin Chinese Medicine & Medicinals), Cui Jin-bo of the An Ding Municipal Hospital in Tianjin published an article titled, “The Combined Treatment of Depressive Episodes with Acupuncture & Psychotherapy,” on pages 65-66 of that journal. A summary of the most important parts of that article is given below.
Altogether, there were 68 patients seen as both in- and out-patients in this study. All met the criteria for a depressive episode. For instance, all had a Hamilton Depression Rating score of 17 points or more. The oldest patient was 58.1 years old and the youngest was 24 years old. The median age was 39.1 ± 5.6 years. In the treatment group, there were 20 females and 16 males with a disease duration of two weeks to 12 years and a median disease duration of 2.3 ± 1.2 years. In the comparison group, there were 18 females and 14 males with a disease duration of three weeks to 14 years and a median disease duration of 2.5 ± 1.4 years. Therefore, there was no significant statistical difference between the members of these two groups.
Acupuncture consisted of the following points: Bai Hui (GV 20), Si Shen Cong (M-HN-1), Yin Tang (M-HN-3), Shang Xing (GV 23), and He Gu (LI 4). If anxiety was pronounced, Shao Chong (Ht 9) was bled with a three-edged needle. If there was insomnia, An Mian (M-HN-22) and San Yin Jiao (Sp 6) were added. If there was stomach and intestinal discomfort, Zhong Wan (CV 12) and Zu San Li (St 36) were added. At the same time as acupuncture, patients were treated with psychotherapy. This consisted of guided progressive muscular relaxation. The comparison group received the same acupuncture treatment. However, during treatment, they were told to simply focus their mind on their Dan Tian. All patients were treated with even supplementing-even draining technique and needles were retained for 30 minutes. During acupuncture, all patients received supplemental inhaled oxygen. One treatment was given per day, five days per week, and one course of treatment consisted of six weeks of such therapy. In addition, members of the treatment group received cognitive behavioral therapy, while members of the comparison group did not.
Marked effect meant that there was a 71% reduction or more in the patient’s symptoms of depression and Hamilton Depression Rating scores. Some effect meant that there was only a 30-70% reduction, while no effect meant that any reduction in symptoms and/or score was less than 30%. Based on these criteria, seven patients in the treatment group (19.44%) were judged to have experienced a marked effect, 26 (72.22%) got some effect, and three (8.33%) got no effect. Therefore, the total effectiveness rate in this group was listed as 91.76%. In the comparison group, two patients (6.25%) got a marked effect, 21 (65.63%) got some effect, and nine (28.13%) got no effect, for a total effectiveness rate of 68.75%.
According to Dr. Cui, Bai Hui, Yin Tang, and Shang Xing are all governing vessel points and the governing vessel is the sea of yang vessels which regulates the yang qi of the entire body. Si Shen Cong and He Gu also course and free the flow of the yang qi, resolve depression and open the orifices. While acupuncture at these points was definitely effective for ameliorating depression, it was even more effective when combined with psychotherapy. Oxygen inhalation during acupuncture was meant to disinhibit the circulation of the channels and network vessels and strengthen the oxygenation of the brain.
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