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Stress and Acupuncture- How does it work?

I have recently been asked how exactly acupuncture helps with stress relief, so I thought this would be a good topic to blog about. Before I begin, it is important to note common signs of stress. Sometimes we are not consciously aware that we are stressed but if we listen to our bodies it is giving us very clear signals that it is under too much stress.

  • Feeling angry, irritable, or easily frustrated
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Change in eating habits
  • Problems concentrating
  • Feeling nervous or anxious
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Problems with memory
  • Feeling burned out
  • Having trouble functioning in your job or personal life 

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it could be a sign that your body is under stress. Stress has been linked to health problems, including heart attacks and strokes. Being over-stressed can also lead to poor work performance, sleep issues, absent-mindedness and decreased interest in life.

In Chinese medicine, stress, anxiety and depression interrupt the smooth flow of Qi or energy throughout the body. According to Chinese medicine, our Qi flows through our body through meridians. Meridians can be thought of as a network of roads, almost like a highway system. Stress, anger or any intense emotions acts like a traffic jam, blocking the free flow of Qi or energy in the body. When our Qi is blocked, it can cause tension in the body because the blood is not able to flow smoothly. For example, many people complain of upper back, shoulder and neck pain when they are experiencing stress. This is because stress is blocking the flow of blood and energy to these areas which often leads to tension headaches in the back of the head.

Like a highway system, when there is construction or an accident, traffic gets back up on other secondary roads that feed into or out of the affected area. This is also true of our body as well. Stress can affect many other parts of the body and aggravate other health conditions. Acupuncture works to unblock areas of congestion so that your energy can flow smoothly and freely. Acupuncture points serve as on and off ramps to the energy highway and can help alleviate not only the symptoms of stress and anxiety but the actual stress and anxiety itself.

From a conventional viewpoint, acupuncture alleviates stress by releasing natural pain killers, endorphins, as well as oxytocin. Oxytocin signals the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest mode). In addition, acupuncture improves the circulation of blood throughout the body, which oxygenates the tissues and cycles out cortisol and other waste chemicals. The calming nature of acupuncture also decreases the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and relaxes the muscles. Sounds wonderful right? If you are going through a stressful time in your life and are looking for other ways to de-stress, acupuncture is a safe, effective and natural approach that can help you find that balance and stress relief you so desperately need.