We all deal with stress in our lives. It's pretty much impossible to avoid. Some of us handle it better than others, but because stress can be a real health wrecker, it's important to keep it under control. Exercise, using breathing techniques, massage therapy, meditation, tai chi, and yoga are all good ways to help cope with stress. And guess what, acupuncture is, too!
What Does Stress Do to the body?
When you are under stress the sympathetic nervous system kicks in and tells your body to go into fight-or-flight mode, releasing hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine into the blood stream. This is a useful response if you are in a life threatening situation because it diverts blood flow to the heart, lungs and brain (and away from other parts of the body), allowing you to escape.
Having chronic ongoing stress however, can really hurt you and lead to health issues such as heart problems, high blood pressure, digestive issues, diabetes, insomnia, depression and anxiety disorders, and fertility issues, to name a few.
Acupuncture Can Help
A 2013 article in the Journal of Endocrinology presented the results of a series of animal studies done at Georgetown University Medical Center which showed that rats who endured stress conditions and then received acupuncture had lowered blood hormone levels secreted by the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis (which controls reactions to stress and regulates processes like the immune system, digestion, emotions and moods.) They also measured the levels of NPY, a peptide secreted during a “fight or flight” response.
The study’s author, Eshkevari, said, “We found that electronic acupuncture blocks the chronic, stress-induced elevations of the HPA axis hormones and the sympathetic NPY pathway…. Our growing body of evidence points to acupuncture’s protective effect against the stress response.”
In a nutshell, acupuncture was shown to help normalize stress hormone levels. And if you've had acupuncture treatment before, you can probably attest to the feeling of calm and general well-being accompanying your appointment. Using acupuncture as a tool during stressful times in life can help in the moment and also help prevent long term health issues that could result from chronic stress.