Our bodies are designed to react to stressful events by turning on the “flight or fight” responses of the sympathetic nervous system. This gets our heart rate going, our blood pressure up, impedes our circulation causing pain and muscle tension, and over time this causes the body to release the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol is elevated our sleep patterns become disturbed causing insomnia and our anxiety increases. This constant state of stress begins to deplete us, and we eventually become exhausted.
In Chinese medicine constant stress and anxiety block the smooth flow of our energy which travels through the body in system highways called meridians. Stress and anxiety cause roadblocks to our free flowing energy. Acupuncture helps relieve the blocked energy due to stress, improves our circulation, and relaxes our tight muscles. This helps relieve pain, headaches, and many other health conditions caused by stress.
In Western medicine, acupuncture alleviates stress by causing the release of endorphins. These are the pain relieving chemicals that give us a sense of well-being that the brain produces. The endorphins calm the nervous system; this helps us feel more relaxed and calmer even in the most stressful situations.
Martha, a busy attorney, came to the Berkeley acupuncture clinic for treatment to alleviate her stress and anxiety. She felt that recent events in her life were getting beyond her control and that her physical and emotional health were beginning to suffer. Martha was working on an important case with a major report due in a few days. She had just purchased a new home and needed to move soon. Her small dog was sick and in and out of the vet’s clinic. Martha told me that she was exhausted but could not sleep, that her heart was racing and she was anxious. She had been getting tension headaches, and she had muscle spasms in her lower back because she lifted too many heavy boxes.
Martha definitely needed acupuncture for stress reduction. After a few acupuncture sessions Martha commented that, “Acupuncture relieved the muscle spasms in my back and my headaches. I am starting to sleep better after just three treatments. “
This is what some of my patients are saying about acupuncture and stress:
- Acupuncture helped me with stress reduction while I was trying to conceive. SN
- Acupuncture helped me with stress while I was taking care of my 95-year-old mother, had no time for myself and my back went out. PR
- Acupuncture helped me cope with the stress of breast cancer and the chemotherapy treatment. JL
- Acupuncture helped me deal with stress at work when I was trying to balance the budget, so I would not have to lay off any staff. KF
We all experience stress at some point in our lives. The sooner we can take care of ourselves, the less stress will disrupt our health. Take a mini break by getting acupuncture the next time life gets stressful. You will stay healthier and will be able to cope much better.
Dr. Nancy Rakela