If you’ve gone through a particularly stressful period in your life and feel drained, or feel chronically prone to “getting stressed out”, you should consider Chinese medicine, or acupuncture, as one of the best ways to recuperate your energy.
Stress is a part of life, but if the body isn’t able to maintain a healthy balance between the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) branches of the nervous system, you’re headed for trouble. This chronically raises cortisol levels, which has a wide range of degenerative systemic effects over time.
Cardiovascular disease, insomnia, susceptibility to infections, skin problems, ulcers & other GI problems, chronic pain, and irregularities with insulin and fertility are all common effects of this type of imbalance. So are anxiety, mood swings, hypertension, palpitations of the heart, and cold hands.
Many patients find receiving acupuncture for stress to be an extremely effective treatment option, as it seems to balance nervous and endocrine systems back into balance. Scientifically speaking, we don’t know the exact mechanisms via which this is working, yet, though we have some good ideas (it involves cortisol levels!); however, there is substantial data that reflects that it is working. For example, studies are showing that acupuncture can be helpful in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, one of the most severe and potentially debilitating manifestations of chronic stress. One pilot study published in the “Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease” in 2007 demonstrated that individuals who enrolled in and completed a course of acupuncture (versus cognitive-behavioral therapy, or a wait list control group) experienced significant relief of their symptoms for at least three months after the course of acupuncture was completed. Additionally, a meta-analysis (a study that compiles date from many studies) completed on the subject of acupuncture and PTSD and published in “Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine” also concluded that acupuncture was a promising treatment for sufferers of PTSD. They considered one study which demonstrated that the symptom outcomes for acupuncture treatment and SSRI’s were not statistically different, which means that this study showed that acupuncture was *as effective* as SSRI’s at treating PTSD! Wow.
Of course, relatively few people suffer from PTSD, though the example serves to highlight how powerful Chinese medicine techniques like acupuncture can be at serving us when the nervous or endocrine (hormone!) systems could benefit from this type of reset. More studies are always needed, but this data, which is only a small subset of what is available on the subject of stress relief and acupuncture, is very promising.
If you feel like this picture of chronic stress describes you or someone you know, consider Chinese medicine (acupuncture and herbs). We see clinically that Chinese medicine possesses powerful tools for recovering from autonomic nervous system imbalances, and retraining your nervous system to handle stress with far fewer side-effects than medications.