Physiologically, when we are under stress our bodies experience the 'fight or flight response', which is a series of chemical reactions inside us designed to increase our heart rate and blood pressure, creating tension in our muscles. This is our sympathetic nervous system reacting, and it is an inherited response meant to help us escape from or fight predators when the need arises. Luckily, this is rare these days, but the affects of chronic stress, unfortunately, are quite common. Chronic stress, i.e. a maintained elevation of the neurotransmitters that alter our heart rate and blood pressure, can lead to various conditions including anxiety, depression, headaches, abdominal pain, sleep issues, back pain, and in severe cases panic attacks or a panic disorder.
Acupuncture is great for relieving stress, as it has a multi-faceted effect on your body, balancing blood flow, nerve conduction, hormones, neurotransmitters and more. Because acupuncture is an energy medicine, the precise scientific explanation for your condition is not needed in order to facilitate treatment. And, you can be treated by a qualified acupuncturist for a number of symptoms related to stress, often the underlying cause but also frequently misdiagnosed or ignored in more conventional medical settings. Acupuncture is also a great therapy for stress because it has no adverse side effects, and can be used in conjunction with whatever medication or therapy that your doctor may have recommended.
How does acupuncture help relieve stress?
As mentioned above, acupuncture has a variety of scientific effects on your body, but remember that a proper acupuncture treatment is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM is an energy medicine, whose diagnosis is determined by patterns of deficiency or excess, and the effect it has is measured by changes in your pulse and the symptoms with which you are concerned. Stress, for example, can be relieved with acupuncture, and the results are seen in how you feel. Scientific tests might show that you have achieved balanced levels of serotonin and/or dopamine, but the acupuncturist is more concerned with the success in your personal experience.
Specifically, your acupuncturist diagnoses you using different theories that make up TCM. One of the major theories is The Theory of Five Elements, which states that everything in the universe also exists within us, and that there are five main elements in the universe. In turn, each of these elements corresponds to a major organ in our bodies, and each of these organs has a unique responsibility for our health. In addition, each organ is sensitive to certain seasons, colours, emotions and so on. The organ associated with stress (also anxiety and over-thinking) is the Spleen (capitalized to differentiate from the scientific definition). In TCM, your Spleen is responsible for taking in nutrients from the air (via your Lungs) and your food, and then transforming and distributing these nutrients throughout your body. When there is an imbalance in the way your Spleen is meant to function, you may experience a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, digestive issues, and an increased feeling of stress.
You may have heard that stress is 'all in your head', which is usually a fine answer for symptoms whose origin with no known origin. Well, with TCM and acupuncture, stress has a definite origin: an imbalance in the energy of your Spleen.
For more information, and to obtain your own free TCM diagnosis, contact us.
By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner
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