We all have stress. It’s an organic part of the human experience. Stress can be very useful to us humans; it drives and motivates us to be our best, stay out of trouble, and get things done. Unfortunately, unmanaged stress can also wreck havoc on our bodies and lead to some pretty serious health concerns. Stress is meant to be short lived, a temporary state that throws us into action to solve a problem. Too many of us, however, find ourselves in a constant, chronic battle with stress. This ongoing, low-grade mental and emotional tension has detrimental effects on our physical bodies.
You’ve likely heard about ways to lower stress in your doctor’s office, favorite magazine, on the news, or from your friends. Exercise, healthy eating, breathing, meditation, yoga (the list goes on) are all great options. But here’s one you may not have thought of: acupuncture. Although the thought getting acupuncture may not sound relaxing, nearly every patient I’ve had has described treatment this way, and a good many fall asleep on the table. Through my own study and experimentation, I’ve found that acupuncture works to relieve stress in three ways:
This first one is simple. Going to an acupuncture appointment forces you to make time during your week to focus on YOU. Amidst the emails, meetings, grocery list, kid’s piano practice, and your cat’s gluten-free diet, how much time do you spend thinking about what’s best for you and how to manage your own health? This is time where you can turn the phone off, relax, and just be. Remember, just because you’re not running around completing errands does not mean you are being unproductive or that this is time wasted. Rested and focused, you will able to give and do more, all while feeling less stressed.
Okay, now for some Chinese medicine theory. My very simple and generalized explanation is that stress causes imbalance in the body, and imbalance is the basis of all disease. Everyone is different and manifests this imbalance in his or her own way. Perhaps you get a headache when stressed, or maybe some digestive upset? Do you feel uncontrollably irritable and result to yelling, or just want to ball up and cry? No matter the complaint, acupuncture is a holistic medicine that addresses the root of the problem. The session alone will likely leave you feeling completely relaxed and at ease – that’s the natural effect of acupuncture treatment no matter the complaint. What’s most important is that the effects of treatment are tenfold. When you’re body is in balance, you are less likely to fall victim to stress in the first place, you will manage your stressors gracefully, and might find yourself feeling better all-around.
Now, for all you science-buffs out there, let’s examine the biological basis for why acupuncture relieves stress. Researchers at the Georgetown University Medical Center conducted a study to determine if acupuncture reduced the influx of stress hormones into the bloodstream of rats (cited below). They measured the hormone levels released by the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal gland as well as a peptide called NPY that is involved in the “fight or flight” response. Researchers concluded that electro-acupuncture effectively blocked the influx stress-induced hormones. The exact biomedical mechanism of why acupuncture has these effects is still being studied.
Whether you have mild, moderate, or severe stress, acupuncture can help to reduce your stress levels and benefit your overall health. Stress has been shown to lead to such health issues as heart disease, psychological disorders, pain, neurological dysfunction, and many others. My advice: your best defense against stress is self-care and prevention, so don’t hesitate to try acupuncture. A yoga class might be nice, too.
If you’d like to learn more about stress and acupuncture, click the contact link at the top of the page.