Stress / Anxiety & Acupuncture
We all suffer from stress and anxiety at some point in
our lives, however in the modern world this is becoming
more of a problem. Anxiety can manifest in many different
ways including sleeping disorders, tightness of the chest,
breathing difficulties, palpitations, sweating, and even
panic attacks in some cases. As well as the emotional
symptoms, stress makes the body tense, and can cause
muscular pain and tension.
The TCM view of stress is an emotional disharmony which
can manifest in different areas of the body, and different
associated energy channels. For example, anxiety can
manifest in the Stomach and Spleen channels which are
associated with worry and overthinking, causing circular
thoughts and problems with digestion. It can also affect
the Liver channel causing physical pain, eruptions of
anger, headaches, and tears. Ultimately all stress and
anxiety will affect the Heart which is the ruler of our
physical and emotional selves. When this happens symptoms
in the chest region can develop, as well as difficulty
sleeping and a feeling of not being able to cope.
When we become stressed we tend to lose our 'centre'
and lack focus. The Chinese traditions of Tai Qi and Qi
Gong teach the importance of breathing techniques in
calming the mind and balancing the body. By standing or
sitting with the spine straight, you can visualise your
body relaxing, and your breathing becoming deeper and
slower, focusing it down to a point just below your naval.
This technique helps to calm the central nervous system
and re-centre your mind. It works best when done for 5
minutes once or twice a day.
Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may
specifically benefit stress and anxiety disorders by:
Acting on areas of the brain known to
reduce sensitivity to stress, promoting relaxation and
deactivating the 'analytical' brain,(Hui 2010).
Regulating levels of neurotransmitters
and hormones such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine,
GABA, neuropeptide Y and ACTH; hence altering the brain's
mood chemistry to help to combat negative affective states
(Lee 2009; Samuels 2008; Zhou 2008; Yuan 2007).
Stimulating production of endogenous
opioids that affect the autonomic nervous system (Arranz
2007). Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system,
while acupuncture can activate the opposing
parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates the
Reversing pathological changes in
levels of inflammatory cytokines that are associated with
anxiety (Arranz 2007) Reversing stress-induced changes in
behaviour and biochemistry (Kim 2009).
Acupuncture can be safely combined with conventional treatments such as medication or psycho-educational therapy, possibly enhancing their beneficial effects (Courbasson 2007) and reducing unwanted side-effects (Yuan 2007).