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Acupuncture For Stress

As acupuncturists, one of the most common things we treat is Stress. While it might sound crazy that sticking needles in someone could actually reduce stress, the reality is, it’s true. All of our patients can confirm that feeling less stressed and calm are the more noticeable and immediate side effects of acupuncture. That’s a good thing right?? 🙂

To prove that acupuncture actually improves stress, Ladan Eshkevari, assistant program director of the nurse anesthesia program at Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies conducted a study using rats.

“There weren’t many studies documenting how acupuncture could affect physiologic stress pathways, however, so she designed one using rats to investigate how the relationship might work. To create chronic stress in the animals, she exposed them to an ice bath for one hour a day over 10 days. One group of animals was just exposed to the ice bath, while another was treated beforehand with four days of electroacupuncture in a known active site in the stomach. And another group of rats was treated with a sham version of the acupuncture in a non-essential point 5 mm away. Eshkevari used an electric-based acupuncture in order deliver standard amounts of stimulation to the animals and avoid any confounding effects of inconsistent activation of the stomach site. To monitor levels of the stress hormones and their precursors, she and her colleagues also collected blood from the animals on the first day and again on day seven and 14 of the study. These levels were compared to those of control animals that were not treated to the ice bath. As expected, the animals that were only treated to the cold-stress showed higher levels of CRH and other stress hormones after their exposure. And the sham animals showed similar levels of activated stress hormones. But those that were pre-treated with acupuncture showed no such spike in these hormones. In fact, their CRH levels were similar to those of the controls who hadn’t been exposed to the ice bath at all!”

Read more about the study:

Why Acupuncture Is Great For Chronic Stress

With more research on acupuncture, the evidence of it’s ability to reduce stress grows. Scientists at Georgetown University Medical Center have concluded that “acupuncture reduces the levels of a protein-like substance in rats linked to chronic stress.”
The implications are wonderful; it could mean advances in treating stress with acupuncture! Acupuncture has virtually no side effects and is a completely natural and effective method of reducing stress. To read the article click here

Acupuncture reduces stress and helps couples conveive!

The Baltimore Sun ran an article a few years back reminding all of us that stress can interfere with couples getting pregnant. 1 in 8 couples experience fertility issues, according to the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth.

Research has shown a link between stress and fertility. Stress can prevent pregnancy by increasing too many of the fight-or-flight hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can reduce sperm count and prevent ovulation. Many times when a woman has a longer than normal cycle it is likely due to stress. When your body is overly stressed, it can delay ovulation. It is almost as if your body is saying, “I’ll just delay ovulation until your stress comes down and you are ready.” Stress hormones can also prevent the action of a key reproductive hormone known as gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) and cause the increase of another reproductive hormone called Gonadotropin-Inhibitory Hormone (GnIH) which impedes procreation by preventing the GnRH hormone from being released.
Couples who are looking for ways to reduce stress and improve their chances at conception should consider acupuncture. In my patients, I have seen acupuncture counter the physiological effects of stress, help women reestablish balance in their bodies and become pregnant. If you are trying to conceive without success, acupuncture is a wonderful therapy that can be used alone or in conjuction with other western methods to maximize your chances of getting pregant.

Back to School= Back to YOU!

Summer is winding down, kids are back in school and the long days of sun are getting shortened ever so slightly each day. Now that vacations are coming to an end and people are back to full weeks of work, I’m noticing my patients’ stress levels increasing. I’ve observed an increase in migraines, shoulder and neck tension and poor sleep patterns over the last 2 weeks. If this sounds like something you’ve been experiencing recently it may be time for an acupuncture tune up! Whether you need to kick your digestive track back in gear, improve your sleep and stress or fix a nagging pain, acupuncture can help you get back on your journey to a healthier you.

Acupuncture helps Acid Reflux

Suffering from acid reflux, indigestion, heartburn or other gastrointestinal issues? Did you know Acupuncture can help!? Acupuncture’s ability to combat basic stress may be a key part of its effectiveness with gastrointestinal disorders. For upper- GI problems, acupuncture can even work better than antacids. Check out this article in Men’s Health.

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.

Coping with Stress

I decided my next blog post should be about stress as I was feeling a lot of it this week. We all have stress but does anyone really know what to do about it? We all come to accept a certain level of stress in our everyday lives because we think it is just part of how our modern life is meant to be. In a way this is true because there will always be things in our lives we can’t change even though we wish we could. Stress is always going to be a part of our lives.

Our bodies have certain mechanisms for responding to moments of danger as a means of survival. When we are stressed, our fight or flight mechanisms kicks in so we can escape danger. The adrenal glands send out cortisol which sets up a whole chain reaction. In order to flee, our muscles need nourishment, so blood is taken away from digestion and sent to the muscles.  The muscles tense up and you get ready to run- your neck tenses, shoulder hunch up, fists clench, knees bend and your back arches like the start of a relay race. Your brain stops thinking and goes into reaction mode. Your reproductive organs stop functioning because they are not needed. This is all a very good thing if we were being chased by a mountain lion BUT what if there is no danger? Our body will tell us to run while we are sitting in traffic, fighting with our spouse, or trying to frantically finish up work before a deadline. That shot of cortisol has no outlet. All of the same physiologic things happen to our body but we don’t actually run or fight.

Over time, chronic stress begins to take a toll on our body. Ulcers, digestive problems, sexual problems, sleep problems, weight control issues, high blood pressure and anxiety are some of the many problems that come from chronic stress.  This being said, it makes it even more critical that we find ways to cope with stress. There are many choices but three basics help everyone: cardio exercise, deep breathing and relaxation.

Regular cardiovascular exercise disperses the cortisol because it gives our bodies the physical release it needs to eliminate it. Deep breathing is such an easy thing to do and really helps. Deep breathing helps release the muscle tension by moving oxygen and blood through the tissues and clearing the cortisol out.  Conscious relaxation exercises will also help calm you down. You can relax with a cup of tea, light a candle, listen to soft music, or take a bath- whatever you find helps release the tension.

If those things don’t help, it is time to seek professional help to get a handle on the stress and keep you balanced. Acupuncture treatments can help keep you centered and balanced as well as massage or supplements. Stress is always going to be a part your life but there are ways to make it a smaller part.