Stress

What is Stress?

Believe it or not, stress is helpful, to a point. It causes our bodies to produce adrenaline and increase heart rate and sensitivity to surroundings, helping our bodies to respond to unexpected situations rapidly. For example, when there is danger, such as a fire or burglar, the adrenaline level rises to pump more blood in our body so we can fight or run. Another stress hormone called cortisol is also produced which increases the level of blood sugar, thus providing more energy for the reaction.

However, chronic stress is related to many unhealthy symptoms, including high blood pressure, migraines, digestive problems, pregnancy complications, and even stroke. According to many research studies, the blood sugar increase caused by cortisol has also been found to lower the efficiency of our bodies’ immune systems, and can result in even more problems for people with diabetes. In the most extreme cases, panic attacks, periods of a debilitating sense of extreme distress or fear, can occur.



What is Acupuncture

There are many different forms of complimentary therapy available to help combat the problem of stress and one of the most popular, and indeed tried and tested methods, is acupuncture. Acupuncture is a well-established form of traditional Chinese medicine that has been practiced for thousands of years. The reason that acupuncture is so effective at treating stress, is that it considers the mind and body as a whole. It views that emotional disturbances can result in physical symptoms and vice versa. By treating the root cause of the problem, wherever it lies, other symptoms throughout the rest of the body should also be resolved. It requires the insertion of ultra-fine needles to be placed at various acu-points on the skin. It is believed that acupuncture can block pain receptors and stimulate the nervous system.



Why does acupuncture help?

Acupuncture has a number of different effects on the body and the brain. It affects the central nervous system and triggers the release of endorphins. These are the brain's natural “feel-good” chemicals. They reduce stress and give a feeling of general well-being. In addition, acupuncture improves circulation of blood throughout the body, which oxygenates the tissues and cycles out cortisol and other waste chemicals.

Having acupuncture is also an extremely relaxing experience in itself. Lying down with your eyes closed, paying attention to the sensations in your body gives you a feeling close to a deep meditation. Most people leave the clinic feeling both relaxed and revitalized.

As acupuncture helps the mind relax, the body returns to a more balanced state. This can improve the functioning of your organ systems, and in turn help you to manage stress more effectively. Digestion is one system of the body that is easily disturbed by stress leading to common stress reactions of IBS, vomiting, and diarrhea. By supporting the digestive system, the entire body becomes stronger and better able to handle the next stressful situation.

In addition to these biological effects, just taking time out of your day to do something for yourself and having a safe space to talk over any problems can be hugely beneficial. After your treatment, your acupuncturist may also recommend that you try some stress management activities to stay on top of things between sessions.



Research Evidence

Numerous studies have demonstrated the substantial benefits of acupuncture in the treatment of stress.

A 2008 study published in Anesthesia & Analgesia found that acupuncture point alleviated preoperative anxiety in children while a 2003 study conducted at Yale University showed that ear acupuncture significantly lowered the stress level of the mothers of children that were scheduled for surgery.

A German study published in Circulation found that acupuncture significantly lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The extent of the blood pressure reductions by acupuncture treatments was comparable to those seen with antihypertensive medication or aggressive lifestyle changes, including radical salt restrictions.

Another study from the University of New Mexico measured the affects of acupuncture on 73 men and women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The researchers found the acupuncture treatments to be as helpful as the standard treatment of cognitive behavioral therapy.

Needless to say, if the stress in your life is throwing you off balance, consider acupuncture therapy to regain peace of mind, regulate your immune system and stay healthy.



Assisting Treatments

Acupressure (Chinese Medical Massage)

Head massage on certain head acu-points can relieve insomnia, renew energy level, boost memory capabilities and relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Herbs

Stress treatments may combine Acupuncture with Chinese Herbal Medicine, depending on the needs of the patient. Chinese Herbal Medicine includes the use of a large variety of herbs combined into formulations to help calm your mind. These prescriptions are taken on a daily basis between acupuncture visits to enhance the effects of the treatment.