ACUPUNCTURE FOR THE TREATMENT OF STRESS
When you visit your doctor and she/he tells you that your condition is being caused by stress, what does that really mean? A person can feel “stressed” at work or by their relationships; yet, stress is more than just an emotion that arises in certain situations. It is a state of being that, over time, can have a serious physical impact on your health. Continuous stress can cause physical pain, insomnia, high blood pressure and any number of problems. If you are someone who deals with stress on a regular basis and are starting to feel its consequences, you may benefit from acupuncture’s stress-reducing and restorative effects.
HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE TREAT AND REDUCE STRESS?
There are several ways that acupuncture reduces stress and its side effects. The first is that acupuncture is very relaxing. Once the needles are inserted, you lie on a massage table and rest for 15-30 minutes. The lights are low and soft music plays and many patients fall into a state of deep and total relaxation. After treatment, many people feel calm and at the same time restored to their more natural self. Secondly, while you are resting, the acupuncture needles are working to balance your whole body. For instance, if, because of stress, you experience chronic neck and shoulder pain, the treatment will focus on relaxing muscle tension and increasing circulation to tight, ischemic areas. Or, if your reaction to stress is more emotional, treatments will help to balance mood swings and release pent-up feelings. If your health is beginning to suffer because of stress and disease is occurring, acupuncture can treat and reduce or eliminate the problem (see specific disease conditions on this site to understand how acupuncture treats these problems). Finally, often times, because of long-term stress, many different symptoms are occurring at once. Acupuncture helps to address the origin of the problem, while at the same time reducing the painful symptoms that are affecting your health and well-being.
HOW MANY TREATMENTS WILL I NEED?
The effects of an acupuncture treatment for stress are immediate. After your first treatment, you will have a sense of feeling more relaxed. This feeling can last anywhere from one to several days. You may also notice an immediate improvement in muscle tension and your overall energy level. With regular treatments, the effects will be longer lasting and more cumulative. The severity of symptoms and the effects stress has had on your health determine how quickly your condition will be resolved. Once you come for a few visits, you and your acupuncturist will see how you are responding and a more definite treatment plan can be established.
Anxiety & Panic Attacks
Anxiety and panic disorders are crippling problems. Symptoms can be as severe as a panic attack or as basic as an overall sense of feeling unsettled and anxious. Western treatments generally consist of drug therapies, which are often extremely helpful but may have debilitating side effects. Chinese medicine is a safe and effective way to relieve anxiety with both immediate and long-lasting results.
How can Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Help Anxiety?
From a Chinese medical perspective, acupuncture works to restore a calm and centered state of mind. Acupuncture points are inserted into specific locations in the body to help regulate the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is the part of our body that is responsible for the “fight or flight” response. Normal anxiety, stimulated by the sympathetic nervous system, has its root in fear and serves an important survival function. However, when anxiety occurs at inappropriate times, occurs frequently, or is so intense and long-lasting that it interferes with a person’s normal activities, it is an indication that the sympathetic nervous system is over-working. When acupuncture needles are inserted into specific points, it has an immediate, regulatory effect on the nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system, which has a counter-balancing effect on the sympathetic nervous system, is stimulated so that the heart rate slows down and the body and mind can begin to relax.
The Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto performed a study on 18 adults with anxiety and insomnia. After 5 weeks of acupuncture treatments, the patients experienced a significant reduction in the severity of their anxiety.
What Can I Expect with Treatment?
Acupuncture is relaxing and not painful. At your first visit, your acupuncturist will ask you a number of questions about the quality and characteristics of your anxiety. This is because, in Chinese medicine, it is important to distinguish what makes your anxious states different from someone else’s. For instance, before your visit, it will be helpful for you to pay attention to your sleep patterns, your energy levels, your digestion and any other physical symptoms you may experience regularly. These different aspects of your condition paint a collective picture by which Chinese medicine is able to diagnose and treat the particular nature of your anxiety.
Treatments are relaxing and in general, you should experience almost immediate relief of any acute symptoms. Whether you are having panic attacks or experience general anxiety, over the course of regular treatment, symptoms will decrease in severity and frequency. How long or how often you will need to come depends on how long and how severely you experience anxiety. Once symptoms have been alleviated, monthly or quarterly treatments are helpful to maintain the balance.
What About Herbs and Medications?
Your acupuncturist can prescribe herbs whether you are on medications or not. Chinese herbs can be a safe and side-effect free way to address symptoms of anxiety as well as any other physical symptoms you may be experiencing, such as insomnia, pain, digestive difficulties or others.
EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING AND STABILITY
ACUPUNCTURE AND CHINESE MEDICINE FOR DEPRESSION AND EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are very effective at treating problems of emotional health. Currently in the US, many patients are using acupuncture and herbal medicine to help combat stress, ease anxiety and help restore a sense of joy in their lives. It can help resolve not only emotional discomfort, but the physical symptoms surrounding it, such as insomnia, digestive upset, fatigue and chronic pain.
Acupuncture by itself is very calming and there are many ways in which it works to help relax the nervous system. If you are currently in some kind of therapy or counseling, acupuncture is a wonderful adjunct therapy to help support the work you are all ready doing with your therapist. Chinese herbs can be a helpful tool to naturally balance mood swings, sleeplessness and many other symptoms. If you are taking prescription medications for your depression, anxiety or other issue, Dr. Reidy can safely prescribe herbs for you that will not interfere or negatively interact with your medications.
Whether you are suffering from depression, anxiety, panic attacks or even stress, you can use Chinese medicine to help not only relieve symptoms but permanently resolve your condition.
Acupuncture is used all over the world to address issues of mental health. Depression is extremely common and it varies in severity from one person to the next. Symptoms of bipolar disorder, mild to severe depression and general dysthymia are all treatable with Acupuncture and Chinese herbs. There are no side effects with Chinese medicine and in fact, patients receiving treatment for depression will see improvements in the other symptoms they may be experiencing as a result of their depression, such as insomnia, fatigue, pain or others. For those people who would like additional help in dealing with their depression, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be a safe and extremely effective therapy.
HOW DOES ACUPUNTURE WORK?
By allopathic medical standards, it is unclear how exactly acupuncture is able to effect depression. However, there is growing evidence supporting acupuncture’s effectiveness in the treatment of depression. A study done by the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona found that acupuncture was effective in reducing relapse rates of women with depression. In a double-blind randomized controlled trial, 26 women with major depression received regular acupuncture treatments for 8 weeks. At the conclusion of treatment, 17 women achieved full remission of their condition and only 4 of those women experienced a relapse of their depression symptoms six months later. This small study suggests that acupuncture, when used specifically to treat depression, produces results that are comparable to other empirically validated treatments.
It is known that when acupuncture needles are inserted into the body, endorphins are released. Endorphins act in the body as natural calming and pain-relieving agents. This helps with the emotional effects of depression, as well as the physical symptoms that can often accompany it. Acupuncture also helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby helping to relax the body and mind. But the effects of acupuncture go beyond just working on the nervous system. The physical body, the emotions and the spirit are inextricably linked. Acupuncture has long been an effective method of treating these three levels of the human being. Treatment incorporates, but is not limited to, addressing issues of neurotransmitter deficiencies; it works with the whole person to treat the physical, mental and emotional aspects of this condition.
What can I Expect with Treatment?
For addressing a long-standing condition such as depression, the first visits are aimed at understanding your particular pattern of depression and addressing symptoms as they arise. When necessary, visits focus on decreasing any acute symptoms. The duration of treatment depends on how long you’ve been experiencing depression and its severity.
WHAT OTHER TOOLS AM I GIVEN TO ENSURE MY TREATMENTS ARE EFFECTIVE?
While acupuncture can quickly resolve depression symptoms initially, in order to sustain the positive results of treatment, your acupuncturist may provide you with some diet and lifestyle modifications. Simple dietary changes can have a tremendous impact on the frequency and severity of depression symptoms. Vitamin and mineral supplementation can also be an easy way to help balance out mood swings and fatigue. If you are taking anti-depressants, your acupuncturist can prescribe Chinese herbs that work synergistically with your medications to address symptoms. If you are looking for an alternative to pharmaceuticals, Chinese herbs are a safe and effective way to continue treatment on a daily basis. Your acupuncturist will have a detailed look at your lifestyle, diet and medications and will make suggestions accordingly.