The Ins And Outs Of Chronic Stress: How Does Acupuncture Reduce Stress?

The Ins And Outs Of Chronic Stress: How Does Acupuncture Reduce Stress?

How does Acupuncture Reduce Stress?

One of our constant companions in modern life is stress. Stress is in everybody’s vocabulary; it’s part of our everyday life. Do you know anybody who is not stressed these days? The World Health Organisation calls stress “the health epidemic of the twenty-first century”. We can experience both “macro stress doses”, such as grief, and “micro stress doses” which are everyday issues which pile up and increase our feelings of overwhelm. Each of us has a “personal stress threshold”, and this can change day by day. When it is exceeded problems arise. (1)

What Is The Difference Between Acute Stress And Chronic Stress?

Our bodies are designed to handle acute stress. When we feel threatened our autonomous nervous system is immediately activated. It causes the heart rate to increase, the pupils to dilate, and blood to flow towards the extremities. Our senses heighten, our focus narrows, and our digestion temporarily shuts down.

Cortisol, our stress hormone is released, and we are ready to either fight or run away. This whole cascade is also known as the “fight and flight” response. It is regulated by our sympathetic nervous system.

Sympathetic nervous system stress response

Once the threat has disappeared, this part of the body slows down. It makes room for its opponent, the parasympathetic regulator, also called “rest and digest” system. After the stressful event disappears, all activated body systems are allowed to slow down again. We can settle back into calmness and broader focus.These quick bursts of stress are part of life, and we are meant to handle it. As part of our primal make-up it is designed to deal with short-term threats, i.e. fighting off a predator.

What is happening with us these days, though?

Problems arise when this response becomes chronically activated – or “turned on” a lot of the time. Biological changes which are useful for short-term issues, become harmful if they persist over days, months or even years. Chronic stress keeps our bodies under the influence of stress hormones. Thus, our sympathetic nervous system is working in overdrive — no space for it to settle down. As a result of it, we are always tired but wired.

  • Our digestion is disrupted
  • Sleep is difficult, and
  • The mind is switched on with never-ending lists

We get anxious, depressed and exhausted. Sounds familiar?

Chronic stress has also a close relationship to inflammation. Sympathetic activation seems to encourage inflammation, and parasympathetic activity decreases it. A study in 2015 showed that, for example, money worries correlated with signs of inflammation in over six hundred middle-aged people. (2)

Other common symptoms of chronic stress include:

  • Low libido
  • Abdominal weight gain
  • Concentration problems, and
  • Increased pain and muscle tension

How Does Acupuncture Reduce Stress?

 

Research indicates that acupuncture can be of therapeutic value in the management of stress and its associated health problems.

 

In a nutshell, acupuncture regulates our autonomic nervous system. It activates the parasympathetic function that keeps us calm and relaxed. (3)

 

According to Chinese medical theory, negative emotions like anger, frustration, anxiety can interrupt the flow of energy (Qi) in the body. The pathways of Qi (meridians) generally provide a smooth flow of Qi like a well-regulated traffic system. When these intense emotions are present for long periods, they become blocked over time. They cause an energetic “traffic jam”. By applying acupuncture, we have access to the flow of Qi. When a traffic jam occurs, the needles on specific acupuncture points can act like police officers. They regulate the traffic by altering the energy flow or re-directing it to free the blockage.

Acupuncture for stress

 

Acupuncture activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This way the body can increase blood circulation and oxygenates the tissues throughout the body. At the same time cortisol decreases, and natural pain-killers (endorphins) are released. They help to:

  • Bring down heart rate and blood pressure
  • Relax muscles, and
  • Finally relax body and mind

As practitioners of Oriental medicine, we focus always on restoring balance in the body. We base our health assessments on an intricate system of pulse, tongue, and abdominal diagnosis, which enables us to determine the weakness and strength of a person’s body.

By applying a gentle form of acupuncture, people experience an immediate sense of relaxation and ease in their body. Sometimes we add Chinese herbal medicine into the treatment protocol to achieve the best possible outcome.

So, why don’t you try the approach of this ancient medical system? If you are looking for a break from a vicious daily cycle of perpetuating stress, come and see us. Over the next few months, we will introduce you to the four pillars of health as part of current Western and ancient Chinese lifestyle medicine. We will explain each component in detail and what you can do to improve them. The four pillars are:

  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • Relaxation, and
  • Movement (4)

Each of them will help you to decrease stress and increase resilience. Making small adjustments can have profoundly positive effects on your wellbeing. Stay tuned for the next series of blogs.

For further information give us a call on 3371 0100 or book online for an initial consultation at www.ondol.com.au/make-a-booking

References:

  1. Chatterjee, R, 2019, The Stress Solution, The 4 Steps to Reset Your Body, Mind, Relationships and Purpose, Penguin Books Ltd
  2. Sturgeon, J.A, Arewasikporn, A, Okun, M.A, Davis, M.C, Ong, A.D, and Zautra, A.J 2015 ‘The Psychosocial Context of Financial Stress: Implications for Inflammation and Psychological Health.’ Psychosomatic Medicine 78, no. 2 pp. 134-43.
  3. Li, Q.Q, Shi, G.S, Xu, Q, Wang, J, Liu, C.Z, Wang. L.P, 2013, Acupuncture Effect and Central Autonomic Regulation, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3677642/
  4. Chatterjee, R, 2019, The Stress Solution, The 4 Steps to Reset Your Body, Mind, Relationships and Purpose, Penguin Books Ltd

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