Stress is real and can have a profound impact on your health. Most people know that uncontrolled stress can increased our risk many diseases such as heart attack and stroke, as well as cause insomnia, digestive issues, tension headaches, migraines, and back pain.
Acupuncture cannot remove the stress from your life, but it can help you deal with it better. In fact a few of acupuncture’s good “side effects” include better sleep, less anxiety and depression, and help in stress management. Often a patient who was coming in for a skin condition also found that his long time anxiety disorder was greatly improved. Another patient who was coming in for the treatment of lower back pain also struggled with insomnia. After a few treatments, he began to sleep much better. As one patient who was coming for help with shoulder and back pain, put it, “I find that my body and spirit are in stronger alignment and that I have more energy and fewer general complaints.”
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The Body’s Reaction to Stress
Stress is often thought of as an emotion or a feeling. Stress actually is a physiological reaction to a situation in which you feel threatened. In many cases this reaction is good. Stress can help us meet our goals with an extra boost of energy. At the same time, constant and overwhelming stress can have many serious long-term health consequences.
Our reaction to stress is characterized by the fight or flight response which is regulated by our sympathetic nervous system. The fight or flight response has evolved in order to prepare us for defending ourselves in times of distress. While the physical risks in our lives, for the most part, have changed, (not so many of us are worried about being chased by bears and tigers) our bodies are more or less the same. Even if there is no tiger chasing us, we will have the same physical reaction to high pressure jobs, an argument, waiting for the subway, traffic, writing a paper, caring for a loved one, or the psychological pressures we put on ourselves.
In Chinese medicine the mind and body are connected, emotions are not just felt in our mind, but have profound effects on our body. Stress can cause anger, frustration, worry, or fear. This is of course normal and healthy in certain situations. The problem occurs when either the feeling is constant and excessive, or when we have no outlet for expression, so it builds up inside our bodies. Intense emotions create imbalances and lead to many health problems.
Acupuncture’s Holistic View of the Body
Acupuncture’s ability to improve overall health and improve quality of life for people is one of the most powerful and mysterious aspects of the treatment. Acupuncture can help bring balance to both the mind and the body. Working on many levels, it can both help to reduce inflammation as well as calm the mind and ease anxiety and depression.
Acupuncture physiology discusses the strong effect emotions have on the physical aspects of the body. In diagnosis and treatment, Chinese medicine links specific emotions with specific functions in the body. Stress and worrying can affect the digestive system. Stress can also cause pain, because it stops the free flow of qi. Anger causes heat and can lead to headaches or dizziness.
Connecting the physical body to the emotions makes sense. We all know when we are nervous because we physically feel it. Your heart rate increases, you may get sweaty palms, or even blush. It is also widely known that stress and anxiety can have a negative impact on health. Emotions affect our physical health, but it can also work the other way. Our physical health can affect the emotions as well. That’s why regular physical activity, stretching, yoga, and tai chi, makes us feel better emotionally.
Acupuncture Treats the Whole Person
Acupuncture describes its approach to treatment as addressing both the root and branch of a problem. The branch is the symptom, such as pain. The root is the underlying imbalance that causes the disease. Acupuncture’s goal is to treat the root of the problem, not just the branch. Correcting the root can lead to long-term improvement and recovery.
When treating stress, . The pain itself is the branch of the disease. The underlying imbalance is the root. In many cases, the imbalance is caused by poor circulation of qi, or energy, which causes the muscles to remain tight. The lack of qi flow also creates other problems, such as poor sleep. By improving the flow of the qi, the treatment addresses the root imbalance. This not only reduces the back pain but also improves sleep.