Acupuncture and Stress

How To Beat Stress: An Old World Cure for a New World Problem

Whether we like to admit it or not, today's modern urban lifestyle is all about stress. Your sympathetic nervous system is stimulated at every turn, computer screens and televisions bombard you with information faster than you can process it and you're constantly pushed to do more, do it faster and do it better.

At best, your stress manifests itself as anxiety, depression or insomnia. At worst, it turns into migraines, eating disorders, hypertension, muscle tension, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, even cancer and heart disease.

So how do you fight this modern-day plague we call stress? With the ancient techniques of Traditional Chinese Medicine - particularly acupuncture.

First though, let's examine what stress is.

What is Stress?

"Doctors are more and more certain that excess stress is our number one killer."
- Richard Brodie, "Virus of the Mind"

The Oxford English Dictionary defines stress as "a state of mental, emotional or other strain." This strain is a direct result of one of our most primitive features - our "fight or flight" response.

When you confront a stressful situation (think fighting through traffic, working toward an impossible deadline or meeting with your boss), your body releases stress hormones, namely cortisone and adrenaline. These hormones raise your blood pressure and prepare your body to react to the stimulus - either to fight or to take flight.

As much as both fight and flight may sound like appealing options at the time (especially when meeting with your boss!), they're rarely viable options in most of the stressful situations you face daily. In the absence of such a concrete defensive response that would release your stress hormones, stress continues to build up in your system until you find yourself in a constant state of alarm in preparation for a fight or flight that never comes.

This state of accumulated stress can increase your risk of both acute and chronic psychosomatic illnesses and can greatly weaken your immune system.

How You Can Use Acupuncture to Relieve Your Stress

People have been using acupuncture for thousands of years to treat a wide range of illnesses. Because acupuncture is based on the concept of maintaining a natural, harmonious flow of life energy, or Qi, it has also proven extremely effective at combating the modern-day plague of stress, and the physiological problems stress can cause.

Frequently, patients receiving acupuncture are able to "turn off" a racing mind, calm their heart and lower their blood pressure after only a few treatments. Common side effects of acupuncture include better sleep, increased clarity and a general sense of wellness.

"Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are."
- Chinese Proverb

Acupuncture is one of the core practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Like Chinese Medicine in general, acupuncture focuses on restoring and maintaining your Qi (also known as Chi, or energy flow) and on encouraging free circulation of energy throughout your body. If there is harmonious flow of Qi through the body, there can be no disease.

Traditional Chinese Medicine also explains how your emotions can have a significant and tangible effect on your physical body. For example, anger can affect your liver function, fear can weaken your kidneys and sadness can damage your lungs. The reverse is also true - an energy imbalance in your organs can actually trigger a corresponding emotion.

Acupuncture, like other Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques, enables you to regain control of your emotions by addressing their root causes - the energy imbalance in a particular emotion's corresponding organ.

Of course, no two people are the same. We're not all exposed to the same stressors, and we each have a unique constitution, the strength of the innate energy with which we're born. By using Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnostic techniques, a registered Acupuncturist is able to prescribe a treatment that is unique to your symptoms and to your constitution.

An Acupuncturist will access your Qi at specific points along the channels through which it flows, changing the flow of energy at each particular point. The change of energy flow achieved through acupuncture is often all it takes to relieve stress and reconnect your mind and body in a state of "oneness" - otherwise known as complete relaxation!

Acupuncture and Stress: Frequently Asked Questions

How many acupuncture treatments will I need to relieve my stress?

The number of treatments your Acupuncturist prescribes will vary depending on the amount of stressors you're exposed to each day and your own body's unique constitution (i.e. the strength of your innate energy). Often just a few acupuncture treatments are enough to break the cycle of stress and allow you to discover what true relaxation feels like. The treatment protocol for chronic symptoms (such as when stress has accumulated over several months) will be different than it would for acute symptoms that have only manifested in the past few weeks. If budget is a factor then a change in lifestyle, such as joining a meditation group or practicing QiGong or Tai Chi Chuan, coupled with a healthy diet will go a long way toward relieving your stress.

How long is each acupuncture treatment?

Each acupuncture treatment takes approximately 45 minutes. Your first treatment will also include a 30-minute consultation to discuss your symptoms and medical history, bringing the initial visit to about 75 minutes.

Does acupuncture hurt?

Acupuncture needles bear little resemblance to the hypodermic needles you're most likely familiar with from injections and blood tests. Acupuncture needles are much finer, and are solid rather than hollow. When an acupuncture needle is inserted, the sensation is often described as a tingling or dull ache. During treatment, patients commonly experience a heaviness in the limbs or a pleasant feeling of relaxation. The benefits of acupuncture frequently include more than just relief from a particular condition. Many people find that it can also lead to increased energy levels, better appetite, sounder sleep and an enhanced sense of overall well-being.

Food For Thought:

We don't think twice about maintaining our vehicles. Perhaps it's time to give our mind, spirit and body the same respect.

Compiled and written by Rachelle Desforges Wendt, R. Ac. Edited by Ryan Parton Writing Solutions

Permanence - Bliss - Self-Purity (the world of joy)