The ancient technique of acupuncture may help reduce hyperthyroidism symptoms for some people.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), disease is believed to stem from an imbalance in qi (chi), or life force energy.

Hyperthyroidism is no exception, as it’s linked to a disruption of qi due to yin deficiency, phlegm stagnation, and excess heat. This energy imbalance is believed to affect your body’s ability to regulate the thyroid gland.

Acupuncture is an ancient technique that’s used to help balance these energies and reduce the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. And because of its effectiveness and safety, acupuncture has been accepted as an adjunct therapy in modern medicine.

Hyperthyroidism is an endocrine disease that occurs when the thyroid gland produces more thyroid hormones than the body needs. Too much of the hormone thyroxine increases your metabolism, causing a “speeding up” of the body’s functions.

While there’s very little research on acupuncture for thyroid disease, a 2021 study on Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is a common cause of hypothyroidism, suggests that acupuncture can help manage some thyroid symptoms.

A 2018 review of 29 international studies found that acupuncture effectively reduces thyroid symptoms when used alone or in combination with other therapies. The technique was also deemed safe, economical, and useful to people of all ages.

According to TCM, hyperthyroidism is linked to a disruption of qi in the body, excess heat, and phlegm stagnation.

When healthy, qi flows along pathways called meridians, but if the flow becomes weak or blocked, illness can result. Acupuncture helps bring the body’s qi back into balance.

Acupuncture involves inserting slender needles into acupoints — specific stimulation points in the body — to promote a healing effect. Points are selected from 361 acupoints along 14 meridians in the body, with each acupoint corresponding to specific organs and tissues.

Needle insertion can last from a few seconds to several minutes. You might feel a tingly, warm, sore, or dull pain during the process. This sensation, called de-qi, is believed to indicate effective and efficient qi flow.

From a Western medicine standpoint, acupuncture’s healing effects are not completely understood. Some evidence suggests that the technique may affect nervous system function and the specific connective tissues where the needles are inserted.

Research suggests that acupuncture may affect the part of the brain that processes pain, stimulating the release of the body’s natural pain relievers.

In particular, studies have shown that acupuncture can help ease chronic pain, such as lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, neck pain, and osteoarthritis (knee pain). It may also reduce the frequency of tension headaches and prevent migraine attacks.

In some cases, acupuncture seems to have non-specific effects, meaning the benefits may be due to another reason other than the insertion of needles. This could be due to the person’s belief in the technique (placebo effect), the relationship between the practitioner and client, the mindfulness aspects of the procedure, or some other reason.

In a 2019 study, people who experienced pain relief during a previous acupuncture session were shown a video of that session and asked to imagine the treatment happening again. This imagery technique exhibited a significant pain-relieving effect.

Hyperthyroidism essentially “speeds up” your body’s metabolism, causing many of the body’s systems, including the production of serotonin and noradrenaline, to become overactive, leading to numerous physical and mental symptoms.

Research from 2021 of all female participants found that women with hyperthyroidism were significantly more likely to have a psychiatric condition compared with women with typical thyroid levels.

The most common psychiatric conditions found among hyperthyroidism participants in the study included depression, generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, panic attacks, and suicidality.

According to 2020 research on Graves disease, an autoimmune disorder and the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, some of the most common psychiatric symptoms include:

  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • shifts in mood and emotions
  • sleeplessness
  • restlessness
  • sensitivity
  • ease of anger

Hyperthyroidism may also include the following physical symptoms:

  • irregular heart rate
  • weight loss
  • twitching or trembling
  • excessive tiredness
  • heat sensitivity
  • muscle weakness
  • diarrhea
  • persistent thirst
  • frequent urination
  • itchy skin
  • protruding eyes
  • excessive sweating
  • neck swelling
  • increased appetite

Research from 2018 suggests that thyroid dysfunction may also contribute to other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis, and gastrointestinal disorders. In women, it can affect reproductive function and pregnancy.

Although acupuncture may help manage hyperthyroidism symptoms for some people, the most common treatments for hyperthyroidism include:

  • Anti-thyroid medication: Thionamides, such as carbimazole and propylthiouracil, are often used to treat hyperthyroidism. These medications stop your thyroid from producing excess hormones.
  • Radioactive iodine therapy: This destroys the cells that produce thyroid hormones, leading to a decrease in hormone production.
  • Surgery: Surgery to remove the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy) may be used if other treatments don’t work.
  • Beta-blockers: These medications can manage symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, and tremors.
  • Selenium supplementation: Evidence suggests that in cases of recurrent hyperthyroidism caused by Graves’ disease, selenium supplementation may enhance the effectiveness of antithyroid drugs and improve thyroid function.

Acupuncture is an ancient healing technique that’s been effectively treating diseases for thousands of years. Acupuncture is believed to stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and help regulate the endocrine system.

If you’re interested in using acupuncture as an adjunct treatment for hyperthyroidism, be sure to discuss it with a healthcare professional first. Acupuncture is considered safe when performed by a certified practitioner.