Acupuncture is a complete system of medicine which has been practised in China for over 2,000 years. The theory upon which it is based is that a network of channels or meridians carry energy or in Chinese terms, Qi, throughout the body. Each of these channels relates to a particular organ and the individual channels relate to each other by means of their characteristics. The good health of the body depends on free movement of energy through these channels. When they become blocked, due to injury, illness, emotional upset or improper eating, disease sets in. An acupuncturist uses very fine needles which are inserted into points along the meridians, to indicate to the body where it needs to focus energy in order to heal. In order for this to work effectively, the person needs to be open to and willing to receive treatment. Full interaction with a person’s acupuncture points does not happen if they truly don’t want to change from their current way of living, or don’t believe it can work. I experience this when somebody comes to the clinic under pressure from a partner or friend. That is not to say that they might not change their minds, or become less fearful and more open after they have experienced an acupuncture treatment.
In western terms, acupuncture can be described in terms of its’ effect on the brain via the nervous system. Investigators from the Acupuncture and Moxibustion Department of Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine have shown that acupuncture regulates neurotransmitters and in so doing modulates autonomic nervous system responses. Acupuncture triggers the release of opioids in the nervous system by drawing attention to the problem area. Once the afflicted area can move and operate freely without pain, the pattern in the nervous system that was creating the pain is broken, allowing the area to heal naturally.
So how can acupuncture reduce stress and anxiety? Acupuncture stimulates the release of hormones, including oxytocin, a hormone which regulates the parasympathetic nervous system. The ‘fight-or-flight’ response that is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system has been called the ‘rest-and-digest’ response, the opposite of the sympathetic system. In modern living, many people become stuck in ‘fight or flight’ mode. This happens when we try to fit too many things into our days and end up always hurrying to meet appointments, finish our daily tasks and keep up with the constant stream of communication which we have all stepped into via our phones and social media. No one is idle for long these days, and we weren’t designed to live like this. Acupuncture can turn down the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, and stimulate the parasympathetic one so that we can slow down and rest.
In simple terms, acupuncture regulates our brain activity and helps us to relax. When combined with meditation, use of relaxing music, taking regular exercise, spending time in nature and finding hobbies and interests which help us to unwind it can really restore us, easing stress, anxiety and depression. For best results, treatment needs to be regular. I usually recommend a starter course of six weekly treatments. As symptoms ease, these can be spaced out to longer intervals. Acupuncture is generally used in conjunction with western medicine for people with acute or chronic mental health issues. Anyone considering using acupuncture to reduce medication should only do so under medical supervison. For more information on acupuncture and healthy living take a look at my blog at:
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Author: Trish Conneely, acupuncture