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Acupuncture for Stress

Woman rubbing temples stressed out working at her desk.Sometimes stress is good, it can motivate you to work hard or help you react quickly in life-threatening situations. But if stress happens too often or lasts too long it can have detrimental effects on your health. Stress can cause headaches, stomach upset, back pain, and insomnia. If chronic, it can lead to high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, increased risk of heart attack or stroke, and it may even make existing health conditions worse.

You can protect yourself by learning to recognize the signs or symptoms of stress and taking steps to reduce its harmful effects. This is where acupuncture comes in.

Stress From A Chinese Medical Perspective

Young woman in in forest happy and relaxed being stress-free.When we are stressed our muscles tense up and this causes our Qi (pronounced “chee”), or vital energy, to stagnate. People who are stressed often complain of upper back, neck and shoulder pain. This is because stress causes tension in those areas, blocking the free flow of Qi, which results in pain.

Acupuncture can unblock and regulate the flow of Qi in the body to induce a relaxation response—lowering heart rate, decreasing blood pressure and relaxing muscles.

Studies On Acupuncture and Stress

A 2008 study published in Anesthesia & Analgesia found that acupuncture reduced pre-operative anxiety in children. Additionally, a 2003 study conducted at Yale University showed that ear acupuncture significantly lowered the stress level of mothers of children scheduled for surgery.

A study published in Anesthesiology in 2003 used ear acupressure to relieve stress and anxiety in patients being transported to the hospital in ambulances. One group received real acupuncture points while the other group received fake acupuncture points. At arrival, the stress level of the real acupuncture group decreased by 66% while the stress level of the fake acupuncture group actually increased by 10%.

Another study from the University of New Mexico measured the effects of acupuncture on 73 men and women suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They found acupuncture to be as helpful as the standard treatment of cognitive behavioral therapy.