Acupuncture For Stress And Anxiety

Acupuncture has been used to treat stress-related conditions for over three thousand years.

First of all, it might be useful to take a quick look at how our bodies react to stress. Stress symptoms are the result of the flight or fight mechanism in our bodies kicking in. We have evolved to respond to dangerous situations, either by running away or staying and fighting, so when the Sabre Toothed Tiger comes around the corner ,the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, and adrenaline and other stress hormones and chemicals flood throughout the body. This causes numerous physiological changes to take place, for example, the digestive system closes down, and more blood is pumped to the muscles so that we can fight the Tiger ,or run away from it, the higher learning centres of the brain close down and the more reptilian part of the brain takes over, so that we can act instinctively, rather than spend time analysing and planning. These, and numerous other reactions to stress, are perfectly designed to enable us to react to an emergency situation.

However, in today’s modern society, very few of us come across a Sabre Toothed Tiger, instead now we get stressed when our computer crashes, when we get stuck in traffic, or when we miss the start of our favourite television programme. However, our nervous and hormonal systems cannot tell the difference between the stress of traffic light turning red again, and the imminent danger of being eaten by a rather large Sabre Toothed Tiger. And so for many of us our bodies are reacting to stressful situations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The consequence of this constant stress reaction is an increase in the risk of chronic health conditions, including heart disease, infection, obesity, anxiety, depression, poor concentration, and poor memory.

The list of symptoms associated with long-term chronic stress goes on and on, with symptoms as varied as fear, worry, anxiety, moodiness, restlessness, short temperedness, irritability, feeling tense, depression, headache, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, frequent colds and flu’s, eating too much or loss of appetite, insomnia, sleeping too much, fatigue, cravings for alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, and so the list goes on.

“in today‚Äôs modern society, very few of us come across a Sabre Toothed Tiger, instead now we get stressed when our computer crashes.”

So can acupuncture be helpful in stress-related conditions?

Research by the University of California in Los Angeles Department of Medicine and the University of California in Santa Monica showed that when people are put under stress that their blood pressure typically went up. Those subjects who had acupuncture whilst being put under stress experienced much lower increases in blood pressure than those subjects who did not have acupuncture.

The Journal of Cardiac Failure Volume 8, December 2002, reported on research that showed that acupuncture reduces the effects on the sympathetic nervous system when subjects were put under intense mental stress.

In traditional Chinese medicine theory, the main organs involved with stress are the Liver and the Heart. The Liver is described as the temperamental organ, and is the system of mostly affected by stress, in particular the too much to do too little time to do it in stress. Chinese medicine typically describes symptoms of anger, irritability, frustration, one-sided headaches, insomnia, PMS, and general stress like symptoms to be associated with the Liver.

The other organ commonly affected by stress, is the Heart, it is important to remember that when Chinese medicine practitioners are describing the functions of the Heart, we are not only talking about the physical action of the heart pumping blood, but there is an understanding that the Heart is the seat of the emotions, and imbalances in the Heart energy typically lead to symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, palpitations and panic attacks.

Although other systems can be involved in stress-related conditions, imbalances in what Chinese medicine describes as the Heart and Liver are the most common imbalances in most people in the West with a stress-related condition.

As well as selecting points that, in Chinese medicine understanding, will relax the Liver and calm and the Heart, and hence as shown by research in the West, reduce the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and production of adrenaline and other stress hormones and chemicals , it is important for anybody with a long-term stress-related condition to make some appropriate lifestyle changes.

The four key areas to look at are diet; try and eat as healthy and natural diet as possible, and keeping well hydrated. The simplest way to do this is don’t eat anything that comes out of a packet, so that you always know exactly what’s going into your mouth, eat lots of fresh fruit, lots of fresh vegetables, moderate amounts of fish and poultry or meat, and if you can tolerate them, small amounts of dairy products.

The next area to look at is sufficient rest, recent research suggests that many of us have got sleep deficits of some 32 hours, and that most of us need, to function well and healthily, between seven and eight hours sleep a night.

Now, we need to look at is exercise, and there is significant research that demonstrates a minimum of 30 minutes a day of a aerobic exercise, such as, walking jogging and cycling, swimming, dancing, will help to stave off the negative effects of stress.

Lastly, and definitely not least, try to do some form of deep relaxation on a daily basis.