Mental-emotional stress is a central component of how we have learned to survive on the planet, forcing us to take action to adapt. Most commonly it is triggered by a variety of things in the environment known as stressors.

Stressors can be of the good variety, such as getting married, having a baby, buying a house, getting a new job, etc. And of course, stressors come in the bad variety as well, such as experiencing the death a loved one, getting in a car accident, becoming sick, getting a divorce, etc.

But no matter the variety or the degree to which we perceive them, within 24-48 hours stressors can and do cause physical changes to occur. This includes muscle tension and spasms, pain anywhere in the body such as headaches, neck and back pain, or joint pain, sweating, increased heart rate, sleep loss, upset stomach, diarrhea, elevated blood pressure, skin eruptions, or constipation.

Left untreated these turn into long-term chronic health problems or diseases that affect both the mind and body. And the degree to which we can adapt to these challenges is directly correlated to the success we experience in life.

Acupuncture Helps Reduce Stress

While most people are familiar with acupuncture's ability to alleviate pain, they rarely think of acupuncture as a means for managing stress. But for thousands of years acupuncture has been used as a very effective treatment for mental-emotional stress. This is because acupuncture works by promoting the body’s own self-healing mechanism. It helps you better respond, both physically and emotionally, to whatever might be going on. It serves the purpose of assisting you with adapting your internal environment to the external environment.

In ancient times, this self-healing mechanism was attributed to the free-flow of qi (pronounced chee) or vital energy throughout the body. Vital energy was believed to be the source of all life, and when its flow was disturbed or became blocked within the body, it produced emotional disturbances, pain, and other symptoms of poor health. Re-establishing and balancing the correct flow of vital energy in the body with acupuncture alleviated emotional stress, eliminated pain, restored health, and caused the organism to better adapt to various circumstances.

Surprisingly, the traditional theory of acupuncture continues to produce effective results in the modern healthcare setting.

But today modern scientific research is helping establish a new perspective on how acupuncture works to activate the body’s self- healing mechanism.

While still not well understood scientifically, recent research demonstrates that when acupuncture needles are inserted into the body, a tiny injury is created that stimulates nerve-rich areas of the skin and surrounding tissues. Although the tiny injury that is produced at the insertion site is small enough to cause little to no discomfort, it is believed it is enough of a signal to alert the body that it needs to respond.

This response is believed to involve the neuroendocrine system known as the HPA axis. The HPA axis is made up of a complex set of interactions between the hypothalamus, pituitary, and the adrenal glands. This is the part of our body that helps protect us from the perception of fear and threats to our survival. And its the part that is involved in the organism’s response to stress, trauma, or injury. Scientists believe acupuncture activates the HPA axis system to help balance body function and trigger system wide self-healing, such as regulating body temperature, blood circulation, wound healing, digestion, immune system response, mood, and energy usage.

The reaction caused by acupuncture is also believed to switch our brainwaves from highly active states of activity known as beta (states of alertness and stress), to more relaxed states known as alpha (states of relaxation and creativity), theta (states of meditation and deep thought), and delta (states of sleep and regeneration).

So the next time you experience stress, don't wait until it settles in and complicates your health further. Get in for an acupuncture treatment and activate your natural self-healing mechanism. It may be exactly what you need to ward off the long-term effects of stress and return your health to a state of balance.


About the Author

authorRene M. Rodriguez is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and board licensed acupuncturist in private practice in Los Angeles, CA. He speciliazes in natural prevention and wellness, holistic health, mind-body disorders, and stress management. For more information, please click here.