Background: The estimated number of people living with anxiety disorders worldwide is around 264 million and is estimated to have worsened with the recent pandemic of COVID-19. Acupuncture has shown to have excellent therapeutic effects in reducing anxiety.
Design: Double-blinded randomized controlled clinical trial with 56 participants (21-82 years) with anxiety diagnosed by 3 different anxiety scales (BAI, GAD-7 and OASIS). A 30-min acupuncture session was applied once a week for 10 weeks.
Aims: Evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture and electroacupuncture in the treatment of anxiety to verify if: (1) People with high anxiety report reduced scores after 5 and 10 sessions; (2) Salivary cortisol levels accompanied the reduced scores; (3) Electroacupuncture treatment is more effective than acupuncture; (4) the treatments is independent of anxiolytic medication.
Methods: Volunteers were randomized into 3 groups (control, acupuncture, and electroacupuncture). The results were analyzed by anxiety scales and salivary cortisol tests.
Results: The findings show an improvement in anxiety, assessed by BAI, GAD-7 and OASIS, after the 5th session of acupuncture (p < 0.05) and electroacupuncture (p < 0.05) and the 10th session for both techniques (p < 0.001). The salivary cortisol values measured in the morning followed this pattern (p < 0.05), although the reduction of the night cortisol values was not statistically significant. Electroacupuncture and acupuncture show similar efficacy. The positive effect after the treatments is independent of anxiolytic medication (p < 0.001).
Conclusion: Acupuncture and electroacupuncture are effective in treating anxiety on their own or as adjuncts to pharmacological therapy.