Lots of people know acupuncture is good for bad backs, migraines, fertility and frozen shoulders, but did you know acupuncture helps stress? Read on for the top ten ways acupuncture helps with stress:
1. Stagnation of Qi
In Chinese Medicine we view stress as energy (or what we call Qi) that has got stuck or become stagnant in the body. This can cause emotional or physical stress, such as mood swings, irritability or tight neck and shoulders. For optimum health on all levels, the movement of Qi energy in the body, should be naturally free flowing throughout all the meridian channels or energy pathways from the top of the head to the tips of the toes. Acupuncture uses ultra fine needles, the thickness of a human hair, to actively move Qi in the channels, thereby tackling what we view as a root cause of stress.
2. Happy Hormones
In scientific terms, acupuncture has been shown to stimulate the release of endorphins and oxytocin. Endorphins are the happy hormones that get released with exercise, and oxytocin is the calm and contented hormone, that is often associated with breastfeeding mothers. This leads to a biochemical reduction in stress levels, and is why acupuncture is so relaxing and makes patients feel so good!
3. Talk It Out
In my treatment room, a large part of the session is spent talking to my patient, before I even think about picking up any needles. Discussing what has been going on for them emotionally, physically, at home, and at work. Not only does it help inform my choice of exactly which acupuncture points are needed for that session, but it also helps lower their stress levels with the old adage of “a problem shared is a problem halved”.
4. Chinese Food Energetics
During an acupuncture session, your acupuncturist is likely to offer various lifestyle and dietary changes that complement your treatment. The way we view food is via the impact it has on the internal energy of the body, what properties the food has, and what it does. According to Chinese Food Energetics, or Chinese Dietary Therapy, green tea helps to move Qi in the body, making it the perfect drink to reach for when you feel your stress levels start to rise.
In Chinese Medicine, we believe our emotions can be a huge cause of illness or imbalance in our bodies – anxiety, fear, worry, frustration or anger can prevent the smooth flow of Qi energy in the body. This creates stagnation in the channels, or depletion of the body’s overall energy, ultimately causing stress levels to skyrocket. Needling different acupuncture points helps to stabilise and regulate different emotions, restoring flow, and giving emotional support to reduce stress.
6. Relaxing & Rebalancing
Contrary to popular belief, acupuncture is not scary and painful, it is actually an incredibly relaxing experience, during which many patients actually fall asleep on the treatment couch whilst the needles are in! This makes the acupuncture session itself de-stressing, but by rebalancing the system on a deeper level, this relaxation from the clinic continues at home. In Chinese Medicine we view acupuncture as harmonising Qi within the energy pathways of the body, restoring balance, health and wellbeing.
7. The Four Gates
The number one de-stressing point combination in acupuncture is called the “Four Gates”. It combines LI 4, found in the fleshy webbing between the thumb and forefinger, with Liv 3 on the foot, over the “knuckle” between the big toe and the second toe. This combination strongly moves the Qi in the body, calming the system physically and mentally. These can also be massaged at home as a form of acupressure to de-stress, but should be avoided during pregnancy.
8. Energy Boost
Sometimes we can feel stressed out when we are exhausted and overwhelmed. This feels very different to the frustrated or snappy energy that we often think of with the word stress. Acupuncture can help support and nourish the body, by using points that boost up energy levels, such as St 36 just below the outer side of the knee, thereby reducing this type of stress. Eating blood-nourishing foods, as according to Chinese Food Energetics, will also help here – add beetroot, beef, spinach, eggs, apricots, figs and kale for an extra boost.
9. Bespoke Treatment
Traditional acupuncture is a holistic practice that treats YOU as you, as an individual, as a whole person. You may have a group of people all claiming to be “stressed out”, but the acupuncture points chosen for each person might be completely different, depending on what is going on in their lives, what symptoms are present, or which of the Chinese Five Elements they are. This bespoke de-stressing is one of the key reasons acupuncture is so effective at combating stress, it’s not a one-size fits all approach.
10. Me Time
An average acupuncture session runs between 45 minutes and 1 hour. It is your time to stop, relax, and focus purely on yourself – how often do we get that in our daily routines? Patients often say that just knowing they have acupuncture booked into their diaries is enough to help their stress levels – knowing they have a support system in place, that will help them physically and emotionally, is de-stressing in itself.
© Rhiannon Griffiths 2015