The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is anxiety. Experienced acupuncturists
Martine and Natalie Vegoda (sisters, who co-founded London’s The Heathlands Clinic) are helping to
‘demystify’ the role and benefits of the ancient practice, highlighting how acupuncture can work as a
wonderful adjunct to Western medicine, (relieving associated side effects without adding new ones),
as well as the fact it’s backed by science to work in its own right as a stand-alone treatment.
Many people are still unaware that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been proven effective
in bolstering various systems within the body – not least in the area of mental health and well-being.
And, as Martine Vegoda MBAcC explains, “a high percentage of cases we treat in our clinic fall in the
spectrum of mental health issues. We have seen a huge rise since the pandemic.”
Indeed a survey carried out amongst members of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) as part of
its recent ‘Getting to the Point of It’ campaign, showed that 72% of practitioners said they had seen
an increase in patients seeking help for mental health issues due to the post-Covid NHS backlog.
She continues; “Global prevalence of anxiety is on the rise. Anxiety is a complex condition and there
are many related disorders, symptoms and physical manifestations that vary considerably from
person to person. The mental and physical symptoms can be chronic and result in sufferers having
very poor quality of life 1. ”
TCA can be very effective in this area. Practitioners of TCA treat the whole person in totality rather
than their specific symptoms in isolation. For that reason, each patient will likely come out with a
different Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) diagnosis and acupuncture treatment plan. There
really is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Natalie Vegoda MBAcC says; “We have success with patients all the time for help with low mood,
physical pain, feelings of anxiety, stress and fear, IBS flare-ups, problems sleeping, stress headaches
and so much more. In my opinion, traditional acupuncture – and the diagnostic theory of TCM which
forms its backbone – has opened up a way for practitioners in this field to really help people and
enrich their lives.
“We often work alongside medical professionals with patients undergoing talking therapies and
pharmacological treatments. Pharmacological medications such as benzodiazepines, selective-
serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), antidepressants and /or talking therapies such as CBT can have
a lot to offer in helping sufferers of anxiety tackle their condition.
“These options can be life-changing but there need not be an either/or scenario in the best course of
treatment for patients. Our acupuncture treatments create emotional and physical balance in the
body which only serves to support other treatments and accelerate their progression by creating a
more responsive and harmonious baseline for patients to build on.”
Studies have shown, TCA may help with anxiety because it stimulates the body’s production of
endogenous opioids that kick-start the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) to initiate relaxation.
Essentially, TCA treatments ‘down-regulate’ the opposing sympathetic nervous system responsible
for what is termed the ‘fight or flight’ response that is so heightened in states of anxiety.
Treatments work by stimulating the PNS to slow heart and breathing rates, lower blood pressure and
divert energy back to digestion which would have been temporarily suppressed during heightened
episodes of anxiety 2 . Hence why TCA is also so effective in treating IBS symptom flare-ups. Stress
and IBS often go hand in hand 3,4
Martine adds; “The wonderful thing about TCA is that it does not discriminate with its healing. We
are able to help men and women of all ages. Some of the patients we treat may be stressed to the
hilt A’ level students or late teens starting university, unsure if they have made the right decisions
with their degree choices.
“We see menopausal women looking after their families, working full-time jobs and trying to hold it
all together whilst navigating all the discomforts and changes going on within their bodies. We treat
the elderly who can be in constant pain and can’t sleep, and men who are subconsciously
suppressing all their stress so that it manifests with skin eruptions.
“Using TCM theory we can create personalised treatment plans that can lower their stress and
anxiety and decrease their pain.
“In the simplest of terms, treatments stimulate natural endorphin release; their body’s own feel-good chemicals 5. I’ll never forget one patient who, after treatment, described it as feeling we had pulled
the string of their balloon back down to earth again and they could finally take a deep breath.”
Currently NICE (National Institute for Health & Care Excellence) recommends acupuncture for
the treatment of primary chronic pain, tension-type headaches and migraines. But acupuncture is also
used by those with other musculoskeletal pain, digestive and women’s health issues and mental
health conditions, with clinical evidence of its effectiveness emerging all the time.
Always ensure that your practitioner is a fully qualified member of The British Acupuncture Council
(BAcC), accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA, trained to degree level in TCM.
Patients will not get the same quality or diversity of treatment benefits from someone who has only
completed a short course in acupuncture.
To find a local acupuncturist and qualified BAcC member please go to: