As health practitioners it is impossible to ignore the profound effects of stress on every symptom a patient may have. Sometimes if I don't know what to do with a complex case, I'll simply try and calm them down. It always helps. I recently commented to an acupuncturist colleague of mine: "I'd rather see a patient eating crap and happy, then a patient with an impeccable diet and loads of stress. I really think stress is the most critical factor to human health." She emphatically agreed.
While it's not really that simple--a poor diet can dramatically affect our mood--we need to search for ways that we can cultivate calm and peace in our frenetic lifestyles. If health and wellbeing is what we are after, then we must learn to manage stress as carefully as we manage our diet and exercise.
I recently came across a study by researchers at Georgetown University in 2013 that found acupuncture blocks the effects of chronic stress. Researchers caused rats stress by exposing them to winter-like temperatures for an hour a day, followed by needling a specific point (Stomach 36 or "Zusanli"). The results were interesting.
Researchers measured blood levels of hormones that affect the rats hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenals gland influencing the body's reaction to stress, mood and emotion. They discovered that acupuncture blocks the release of hormones that lead to chronic, stress-induced states.
To read more about this study, click here.
Many of our patients discover on their own the beauty of using acupuncture regularly to regulate the stress and anxiety that naturally builds up as a result of modern living. Some of them come in for knee pain, headaches, or TMJ, and almost everyone comments: "I felt so relaxed afterwards, and it lasted for several days." Other patients get off of the long-term use of medications to reduce anxiety and depression.
If you haven't tried acupuncture as a tool for balancing your mood and stress, I highly recommend it. It could become one of the critical tools that save your health.