Discover the implications of stress and how using acupuncture for stress can be the perfect addition to your stress management routine.
Many people have seen significant improvements in stress levels using traditional Chinese medicine techniques like acupuncture for stress relief.
Though there are many benefits of acupuncture (like helping with digestive problems, sleep problems and chronic pain), here we are going to look at acupuncture as an effective treatment for calming the stress response.
Understanding what happens when you’re stressed might help you find healthy methods to deal with stressful events so that they don’t take over your life. Starting acupuncture before your stress leads to chronic stress can give you a head start.
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What happens when we’re stressed?
When you are stressed, your body reacts by going into overdrive, causing anxiety. Your body creates the stress hormone, cortisol, to help you cope with a stressful and terrifying situation. When a threat is sensed, the sympathetic nervous system is engaged. This creates our body’s fight or flight response.
When we are stressed, our parasympathetic nervous system is put on hold while our sympathetic nervous system takes over, activating our adrenal glands and causing them to produce cortisol.
While some cortisol is required for survival, high cortisol levels can cause a range of health problems, including increased blood pressure and blood sugar, suppressed immune system and the heart to be damaged.
What are the negative impacts of chronic stress over time?
Stress is a natural reaction to difficult situations. It affects everyone at some point in their lives and can even be beneficial. Stress can encourage us to take on difficult challenges, push ourselves, and get closer to our objectives.
When stress becomes chronic and exceeds our ability to manage it, also known as chronic stress, it has negative effects on the body and can lead to serious medical conditions.
While not everyone will exhibit these conditions, here are some of the possible implications of chronic stress.
- Sleep disorders – Chronic stress can lead to waking up more frequently throughout the night. These disruptions in sleep can leave you feeling tired during the day, which can cause your stress levels to rise even more.
- Mental health problems – Chronic stress has been linked to a variety of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- High blood pressure – While it hasn’t been proven that stress by itself causes long term high blood pressure, stress hormones are known to increase your blood pressure.
- Physical health issues – A person who is chronically stressed is more likely to experience various physical health issues, including headaches, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal problems and heart disease.
- Energy levels – Chronic stress can cause us to feel exhausted and helpless. Unlike physical exhaustion, rest may not help.
- Anxiety disorders – When stressed, the body releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can cause symptoms of anxiety such as a racing heart, tense muscles, and difficulty sleeping.
How can acupuncture help with stress?
Acupuncture is a form of complementary medicine in which practitioners insert long, fine needles into specific points on the body. The purpose of this practice is to restore the body’s energy balance.
In addition to relieving pain, acupuncture has also been shown to increase energy and enhance concentration. This is because acupuncture increases blood flow throughout the body, which can boost energy levels.
- Acupuncture helps promote the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Additionally, endorphins are known to enhance feelings of happiness and well-being. In addition, acupuncture reduces cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
- Acupuncture is a safe and effective method of stress relief. It can even treat stress-related heart disease and high blood pressure.
- Acupuncture promotes the body’s natural healing process and improves circulation, which increases the supply of oxygen to the brain. These effects, when combined, promote relaxation and reduce stress levels.
- Acupuncture patients frequently report less pain and an improved overall sense of well-being after a session of acupuncture. Improved sleep quality and mental clarity are also often reported.
- Acupuncture has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of a wide range of conditions and ailments. It can be especially beneficial for people suffering from anxiety and depression because it can improve their mood and promote relaxation. Acupuncture can also help relieve muscle tension and stiffness.
What the science says about acupuncture for stress
Heart rate variability (HRV) is when the amount of time between heart beats fluctuates slightly. It has been shown that people with heart rate variability are less stressed. In a clinical trial done on patients with high blood pressure, it was found that patients had an increase in HRV during acupuncture and right after. Sometimes the increased HRV would last weeks or months.
The study concluded that patients had a decrease in physiologic stress as a result of acupuncture.
Another study concluded that acupuncture has a positive effect on reducing stress in people with a high stress level.
Both studies did not have a control group and results could not be seen long term after the studies. However, it seems safe to say that acupuncture has the ability to aid in stress reduction when done regularly and consistently.
What to expect at an acupuncture appointment?
During your first appointment, most acupuncturists will ask you to fill out a health history form, check your health, and talk about why you want to try acupuncture.
Your treatment plan will depend on your condition and the information discussed with your practitioner. You can expect to receive acupuncture at least once a week for up to 12 weeks. The frequency of your treatments will depend on your condition and the severity of your symptoms.
The acupuncturist will leave you in a quiet, relaxing setting once the tiny needles have been inserted. It’s crucial to take it easy after your first acupuncture session and allow your body to relax and rejuvenate.
Even though acupuncture is a gentle and non-invasive treatment, it’s still advisable to avoid high-impact activities and positions that place a lot of pressure on the points that have been treated.
How to find an experienced licensed acupuncturist
Choose an experienced and professional acupuncturist/doctor who has completed proper clinical training and ongoing education to acquire their licensure. A great place to start is checking with your health insurance company to see which acupuncturists they will cover.
Most American states require a license in order for a provider to practice acupuncture. Requirements will vary by state, but they should either be certified by the American Board of Medical Acupuncture, a member of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture or certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
If you plan to also be treated with herbs by your acupuncturist, make sure they have passed a Chinese Herbology exam and have the proper certification.
When looking for a provider, keep the following in mind:
- Proper certification
- Experience in acupuncture for your ailment
- Positive reviews and/or referrals from friends and family
- Coverage by your health insurance company
- Techniques included with the service. Many providers also offer services such as cupping and massage with acupuncture
- How long has the acupuncturist been in practice?
Additional Stress Relieving practices to introduce
In addition to acupuncture, other conventional treatments can be used to help lower stress. Taking a holistic approach handles stress by identifying and addressing the source of the problem.
Stress, according to traditional healers, can be caused by a variety of factors, including an unhealthy lifestyle, relationships, employment, or other personal concerns.
Here are five additional practices that can help reduce stress.
- Yoga is a centuries old discipline that combines physical postures with meditation and helps you stay stress-free and improves your overall health. It increases blood flow and boosts the release of endorphins and other neurochemicals that promote emotions of happiness and relaxation.
- Doing breathing exercises is a terrific method to relieve stress and relax. Deep breathing can assist you in coping with anxiety, sleeping better, and remaining calm. Most of these techniques involve breathing slowly and in a certain rhythm to increase the amount of oxygen going to the body.
- Music therapy has a significant effect on the human body and can assist in stress relief. Listening to relaxing music, such as classical music or sounds from nature, can help to relieve tension, and promote relaxation, as well as sensations of joy and happiness.
- Flower therapy has been practiced for ages. This technique, also known as floral essence therapy or flower essence therapy, is based on the healing and therapeutic effects of flowers. Flower therapy has a calming impact on the mind and can help with the effects of stress and anxiety problems.
- Chinese medicine involves the use of herbs and other natural components in a variety of therapeutic procedures. It can be used to treat both physical and psychological stress symptoms. In Chinese medicine, turmeric is one of the most frequently utilized herbs. It is well known for reducing inflammation and promoting relaxation. It’s also high in antioxidants, which can aid in the treatment of any underlying illnesses that may be contributing to your stress.
If you are dealing with stress, whether chronic or temporary, acupuncture can be a great tool to add to your routine. Since there is science to support the benefits of acupuncture, most insurance companies will pay for the service.
When done properly, acupuncture can help you relax and unwind from the stresses of life. It can also be used as a preventative health tool to reduce the likelihood of developing conditions such as cancer or heart disease.
Acupuncture isn’t a quick-fix treatment, so don’t expect to see benefits right away. Instead, think of acupuncture as a healing process in which you must be patient with your body and give it the time and space it requires to heal completely.
The conventional treatment for stress is generally diet, exercise, mediation and practicing gratitude. These are all great things. And if you’re looking to add another researched and proven stress reduction technique to your routine, acupuncture is a great addition.
Talk to your healthcare provider or your health insurance company about starting an acupuncture treatment regimen to help with your stress.