Amanda Cox | Acupuncture Melbourne

Stress / Anxiety

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 relaxation response.

  • 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).