Chinese Medicine and Stress Management

Stress

Stress, along with its related symptoms, is a very common complaint among acupuncture clients. Stress causes physical illness and disrupts sleep. It most often manifests as anxiety and depression and can aggravate other conditions, such as pain, IBS, menopause, PMS, and migraines.

The tension we feel when we are under stress is the body's natural reaction to potential dangers around us. The mind can become overloaded and fail to cope well with stressors, and the resulting behavior and thinking patterns can cause or aggravate anxiety.

When we are under stress, the body releases the hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline breaks down fast, but cortisol levels tend to stay elevated. Elevated cortisol levels cause and aggravate serious symptoms over time, such as type 2 diabetes, weight gain, damage to the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that controls short-term memory, suppressed immunity, and higher risk of miscarriage. Prolonged stress is also associated with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Acupuncture can calm psychological distress and boost immunity. It may specifically help with anxiety disorders and symptoms by promoting relaxation, improving stress-induced memory loss, altering brain chemistry related to mood, and reducing inflammation. Stress causes an imbalance of heart and kidneys. Too much “heat in the heart” will imbalance interaction with kidneys. To promote healing, heart, kidney, spleen, and ear points are treated.

Acupuncture has been found to be comparable to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in the treatment of anxiety. It can reduce the level of stress hormones in the body. While acupuncture can't remove stress, it can change how the body responds to stress by stimulating the release of endorphins, lowering cortisol production during high stress, and by raising cortisol levels to help avoid exhaustion. (In other words, it creates a self-regulatory effect within the body.) Acupuncture also helps by calming the mind and treating corresponding organ systems. Maintaining healthy habits, such as healthy diet and regular exercise can help.