Anxiety, Stress and Acupuncture
Ian Delaney, LAc MAOM
Stress and anxiety are common responses to events in our lives that we feel might be beyond our control. When we are at optimal health and the stress is short-lived, we are usually able to recover without too much wear and tear to our overall health. However, when the stress is extreme, or if it lasts a long time, our emotional health and ultimately, our physical health begins to suffer.
Our bodies are hardwired to help us react to stressful events. At the first sign of a threat, whether real or perceived, our sympathetic nervous system kicks in and facilitates what is called the “fight or flight” response. Our heart rate increases, our pupils dilate, and our digestion temporarily shuts down, shunting blood to our extremities, so that if need be, we can either fight what is threatening us or turn and run if the threat is too formidable.
Unfortunately, the “fight or flight” response, which worked well in caveman days, does not serve us as well if the “threat” is long term, such as demanding bosses, a nasty co-worker or even a worrisome unresolved situation. More often than not, the stress in our lives is long-term, and as a result, we find ourselves in a constant state of “fight or flight“, or stress. Over time, the constant state of stress takes its toll. Cortisol–the body’s stress hormone– elevates, blood pressure increases, and our immune function is suppressed. Over time, these symptoms become worse and can develop into anxiety, depression, fatigue, digestive problems, and tension headaches.
Stress and Anxiety from a Chinese Medical Perspective
In Chinese medicine, stress, anxiety, depression or any strong emotion interrupts the smooth flow of energy throughout the body. According to Chinese medical theory, energy flows through our body through a network of “roads”, almost like a highway system. Stress, anger, or any intense emotion acts like a traffic jam, blocking the free flow of energy in the body. For example, many people who are very stressed out complain of upper back, shoulder and neck pain. This is because stress is causing tension in those areas, blocking the free flow of energy, causing pain, tightness, and often leading to headaches. Stress may affect many other parts of the body too, most notably digestion, the ability to sleep, affect pain conditions, and raise our blood pressure. Stress can also aggravate an already troublesome health condition.
Through acupuncture, this stress (dis)function can be addressed. Acupuncture points serve as the on and off ramps to the energy highway, and can help energy flow smoothly, and alleviate not only the symptoms of stress and anxiety, but stress and anxiety itself.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment (503)-287-4970