Acupuncture for Stress: Natural Integrative Treatment for Stress Relief
Learn How Ancient Chinese Medicine Can Help You Decompress, Relax and Unwind
In today’s Western civilization a large part of the population suffers from stress, which is considered a normal part of modern-day life. It is believed that more than half of adults have experienced some form of physical or mental symptoms of stress. When it motivates us to move forward and improve our lives it has a positive impact. However, in the majority of cases, when not effectively managed, stress can have negative effects and significantly influence health and life in general. It can quickly wear you out and exhaust you with a substantial possibility of causing further medical problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, heart palpitations or mental health disorders.
In this article, we will help you understand what stress is by explaining and analyzing typical causes, symptoms, and integrative treatment plans, highlighting acupuncture as powerful alternative way to relieve anxiety. As a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture can help you relax faster and cope with stress-related disorders efficiently. As a holistic, drug-free method, it offers promising results in combating anxiety and reducing levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Furthermore, we will explore several acupoints which help restore hormonal balance and ease tension when stimulated.
Table of Contents
What is Stress?
Stress is a state of anxiety or mental pressure which is typically triggered by challenging or difficult circumstances. It is our bodies’ natural response to threats, hardships, or anything requiring attention in life, such as work burnout, financial obligations, or emotional losses. It is a very complicated concept, as susceptibility to stress differs from person to person. While certain situations may be challenging to some people, others might not be affected at all. Everybody has dealt with some sort of anxiety in life. The most important thing is how we respond to stressors, and whether we have effective coping mechanisms.
What are Common Causes of Stress?
People today often struggle to find the balance between work and personal life. Everyone is sensitive to different stressors, with some people being more sensitive than others. Research shows that work-related anxiety tops the list, with a high percentage of workers suffering from job-related distress.
Typical causes include:
- Heavy workload, work-related burnout, long working hours
- Discrimination, harassment, or dangerous work conditions
- Unclear expectations or insecurity about professional advancement
- Marriage, divorce, becoming a parent
- Moving, changing jobs, financial commitment
- Death of a loved one, or other traumatic events
- Emotional issues like anger, guilt, or depression
- Lack of sleep, disrupted sleep patterns
What are the Typical Symptoms?
In addition to physical health issues, stress that is left unchecked can cause many health issues, such as anxiety, insomnia, lack of concentration and forgetfulness.
Typical mental and physical manifestations of stress include, but are not limited to:
- Increased cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and mental disorders
- Heart palpitations, chest pain, shallow breathing
- Stomach problems such as diarrhea, heartburn, or constipation
- Insomnia, reduced or lost sexual desire
- Teeth grinding, weaker immune system
- Neck and shoulders muscles tension, headaches
- Continuous worry and negative attitude
- Issues with memory, focus, and concentration
- Feelings of fear, worry, or impatience, depression
- A change in appetite, fatigue,
- Increased substance abuse as coping mechanism
Positive and Negative Effects
There is a very delicate line between positive (beneficial, motivational force) and negative effects (harmful, burnout) of stress. In some situations, we can be positively motivated by anxiety and use this energy to reach our goals or overcome obstacles. Distress, on the other hand, can also be harmful to your physical and mental health and leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Constant release of hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, or norepinephrine can cause a lot of harm over time.
Integrative Therapies for Stress Relief
We have compiled a list of useful alternative methods that will help you reduce anxiety and support self-care. Bear in mind that these activities are not a replacement for mental health professional treatments. They are only to be used after consulting with your healthcare provider.
- Acupuncture – ancient Chinese therapy that uses needles for nerve stimulation
- Meditation and Mindfulness – breathing and awareness therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – talk therapy
- Massage – muscle manipulation therapy
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture, a form of complementary medicine and part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is gaining mainstream recognition for treating stress and improving overall health and wellness. This integrative method has been used for centuries to reduce sleep deprivation, anxiety, and mental health disorders.
It works by administering super thin needles which stimulate vital points in the body and promote relaxation while releasing endorphin, also known as ‘feel-good’ hormone. It helps balance and restore Qi energy within our body. It also resets our reaction to stressors. Acupuncture is a natural and powerful tool for dealing with stress, as it does not just treat the symptoms, but helps balance the hormones.
Can Acupuncture Alleviate Stress?
Acupuncture is an ancient form of Eastern medicine that has been used for thousands of years to treat different diseases. Research indicates that acupuncture lowers levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone, while also increasing levels of endorphin, known as body’s natural painkillers. Furthermore, it can decrease headaches, muscle tension, or stomach problems, which are physical symptoms of stress. Acupuncture has been very beneficial in the following situations:
What are the Benefits of Using Acupuncture for Stress?
For centuries, acupuncture has been utilized to eliminate stress. Here are some of the many reasons to try acupuncture for unwinding and calming the mind and the body:
- Natural, drug-free approach
- Painless method
- It relaxes you
- No major side effects
- Improves overall well-being
- Restores energy
- Boosts endorphin release
What to Expect at Acupuncture Session?
An acupuncture specialist will start by asking about your medical history, and then move on to identify the exact hormone imbalance which causes stress. This information will then be used to help establish the right acupoints to be stimulated during the treatment. After inserting the disposable, single-use needles, you will have about half an hour to relax while the therapy unfolds, as not only is acupuncture effective in healing but it also relaxes you.
During the session, a therapist might check on you to see whether additional needle manipulation is required. Acupuncture is a very calming experience as you lay still, often with relaxing meditation background music. Do not be surprised if you fall asleep during the session.
Does Acupuncture Hurt?
During acupuncture sessions, fine, thin needles are inserted just under the skin with a light tap. The exact points will be determined by the practitioner. These needles are extremely thin, and you will barely feel any pain. The majority of people reports feeling no to minimal pain. Some people can feel a mild aching or tingling sensation. In case you do feel uncomfortable, make sure you tell the acupuncturist, so he or she can manipulate the needle position to make you feel comfortable and relaxed.
Acupressure Points for Stress and Anxiety
In Chinese Medicine, correcting the Qi (the body’s vital energy) and blood movement in the meridians of the body improves overall wellness, including mind, body, and spirit.
The majority of acupoints are stimulated to calm the nervous system. The most popular acupressure points for easing stress are:
Governing Vessel 20 (DU-20), also known as “100 meetings” or Bai Hui
DU-20 acupoint is located at the top of the head, in line with the apex of the ears. Stimulating this point grounds energy while easing stress, sadness, overthinking, and depression. It can improve concentration while treating headaches, dizziness or insomnia.
Yintang (M-HN-3), or ‘Hall of Impression’
Yintang is located midway between the eyebrows and is one of the best acupressure points used for treating emotional wellbeing. By activating this point, in the area known as the third eye, deep relaxation is achieved. It also helps establish clear thinking and improves sleep.
Heart7 (HT-7), “Spirit Gate”
“Spirit gate” can be found on the inner wrist crease, towards the side where little finger is, right near the pisiform bone. HT-7 acupoint, situated on the heart meridian, is essential in improving heart Qi, blood circulation and restoring emotional imbalances. Activating this point helps to relax, improves sleep patterns, mitigates heart palpitations, and releases chest pain. Furthermore, it reinforces the Fire element of Chinese Medicine, which is associated with the heart and small intestine. The element of Fire represents love, connection, enthusiasm and joy.
Gall Bladder (GB-21) “Shoulder Well”
GB-21 is located in the muscle of the highest point of the shoulder. It helps relieve upper body tension, alleviates anger, high blood pressure, and migraines. Important: Do not use this point if pregnant.
Conception Vessel 17 (REN-17), “Chest Center”
As the name implies, this acupoint is located at the center of the chest, between the nipples. Triggering this acupressure point relaxes the chest and releases the diaphragm, which is highly beneficial in all emotional distress situations.
Spleen 6 (SP-6), “Three Yin Crossing”
Spleen 6 is situated above the ankle, on the inside of your leg. It is one of the favorite points for digestive, gynecological, and emotional issues. “Three Yin crossing” encourages the body to restore Qi, blood circulation and energy flow. Note: Do not trigger this acupoint if you are pregnant.
Liver 3 (LR-3), “Great Surge”
Liver 3 acupoint is located about an inch away from the web of the first two toes. By activating “Great surge” acupoint Qi and blood flow is regulated throughout the body and tension and pain are alleviated. This point is often used in the treatment of anger, irritability, stress, and headaches. LR-3 is also believed to calm the spirit and detoxify the liver.
Summary: Acupuncture as a Highly Effective Complementary Therapy for Stress Relief
At some point in life, almost every individual will suffer from stress. Some people live with it every day, while others are more resilient and experience anxiety occasionally. Stress is typically associated with issues with work, life, emotions, health, social life, and so on. Aside from medication or therapy, you can try acupuncture as a complimentary method to manage stress and anxiety. Acupuncture is a natural and safe way to treat stress, reestablish hormonal balance, ease the tension and calm down. In addition, it encourages the release of the co-called ‘happy hormones’ like endorphin, which helps in relaxation, calming and overall well-being of the body and the mind.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Often Should You Get Acupuncture for Stress?
To get the best results, you need consistency and regular sessions. Your acupuncturist will design a treatment plan, which might be reassessed at a later point once your body’s healing mechanisms are fully engaged. If you have never tried acupuncture before, you can expect sessions to occur at least once a week for the first several weeks. If you have addressed the issue early on, you can expect to feel better with every session.
How Do I Know If I am Susceptible to Stress?
Studies have shown that there are some risk factors which might influence how resilient or sensitive to stress you are:
- Personality traits
- Social support
- Coping mechanisms
- Childhood trauma or discrimination
What is the Best Way to Treat Stress?
There are many ways to manage stress, and you should try the ones you feel most comfortable with. Talk to your doctor about what options might suit you best.
- Physical activity
- Deep breathing
- Connecting with nature
- Balanced diet, with reduced caffeine intake
- Minimized screen time
- Practice regular self-care
- Get support from family and friends
- Practice expressive writing
- Learn to say ‘no’
- Spend time with a pet
How Do I Find a Good and Reliable Acupuncture Therapist?
If you are interested in trying acupuncture for stress, it is important to find a licensed and experienced practitioner. You can speak to your doctor about recommendations he might have. You can also use the registry provided online on the NCCAOM website. Most importantly, the success of healing will depend on the relationship between you and the therapist. Ideally, you need to be a perfect fit in order for the treatment to be successful.