Acupuncture produces the same benefits as counseling, had about the same effect in reducing symptoms of depression, according to a new UK study.
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of York and Hull York Medical School, found that in a primary care setting, combining acupuncture or counselling with usual care had some benefits after three months for patients with recurring depression.
Many people with depression are interested in receiving non-drug therapies, however, there is limited evidence to support the use of acupuncture or counselling for depression in a primary care setting.
In this pragmatic randomised controlled trial published in PLOS Medicine, the research team assigned patients with depression to receive 12 weekly sessions ofacupuncture plus usual care, or 12 weekly sessions of counselling plus usual care, or usual care alone.
Compared with usual care alone, there was a significant reduction in average depression scores at three months for both the acupuncture and counselling interventions, but there was no significant difference in depression scores between the acupuncture and counselling groups.
At nine months and 12 months, because of improvements in the depression scores in the usual care group, acupuncture and counselling were no longer better than usual care. Even so the early gains experienced by the addition of acupuncture may be crucial for helping some who suffer from recurrent depression feel as if they are making progress.
Says lead researcher Dr Hugh MacPherson, of the Department of Health Sciences at York says: “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.”
He adds that while the reasons why acupuncture may help depression are not well understood: “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.”