Acupuncture Reduces Stress Now and Later, Too
According to The American Institute of Stress, there are over 50 common signs and symptoms of stress. From things as small as headaches and grinding of the teeth to things as large as frequent colds and heart palpitations. While stress is something we cannot really avoid, learning how to handle our stress is especially important to our overall health and well-being.
A new study done by Ladan Eshkevari, the assistant program director of the nurse anesthesia program at Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies, found that stimulating certain body points with acupuncture can alter stress hormones.
The body’s stress response is triggered by two main pathways, one is the HPA axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis) in which these areas of the brain are activated to release peptides and proteins such as CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone). They then launch the production of other hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine that rev up the anxiety meter. Once these are activated, the system causes the heart to beat faster and the senses to go on alert. It also diverts the body’s energy away from other operations, such as digestion, to prime and fuel the muscles into a state of readiness.
All of this is normal and necessary for protecting ourselves from potential threats. However, when stress becomes chronic and starts beating us down, it is no longer helpful and can become harmful. People will start to see long term symptoms such as memory impairment, depression, digestive problems, obesity, sleep problems, and heart disease.
However, in Eshkevari’s study, it was found that when the subjects were pre-treated with acupuncture there was no spike in stress-associated hormones after they were exposed to chronic stress. In the stressed subjects that received acupuncture, stress hormone levels were similar to those in the control subjects that were not under chronic stress, which suggests the ancient healing modality helps to normalize stress hormone levels.
1. It doesn’t hurt.
Because it doesn’t. While some people are a little more needle sensitive than others, the main sensation that is experienced while you receive acupuncture is that of a light pressure where the needle is placed. The play-by-play is that the needle goes in, you may feel a tiny pinch as that happens, but usually not, then as the needle connects with the Qi in the point there is a little tug or push in that area. Nothing traumatic, nothing eventful, just a little push. Most people fall asleep during treatment or relax into a peaceful meditative state after they get used to it.
2. The Monthly Cycle Monster is no longer.
Do you (or your girlfriend) turn into the “before” version of yourself from the Snickers commercial for one week of the month? Does “I need to eat everything in sight, everyone is an asshole and why don’t my jeans fit” sound familiar?
Good news: Acupuncture is incredibly effective in tackling hormonal issues. As your body and hormones regulate with acupuncture treatments, I like to use Chinese Herbal Medicine to nourish, balance, and strengthen your internal organs between treatments so you can say goodbye to PMS and hello to feeling strong, beautiful, and in control of life once again. Don’t be offended if your boyfriend calls to book your appointment; Take it and thank him later when you leave the office feeling like Snuggle the Downy Bear.
3. It can get you high (legally).
People who’ve had acupuncture can attest to this: You can feel high as a kite and the crazy guy at the bus stop doesn’t even phase you post acupuncture. When you come in for a treatment most of the time you are stressed, angry, depressed, or feeling stagnant in some way. Acupuncture works on a meridian matrix that affects the central nervous system, so while you are receiving treatment endorphins are released that put you into a state of calm. Once treatment is over most patients feel relaxed, happier, and much more able to tackle the lemons and obstacles handed to them by this Gulfside jungle we call home.
This is another reason I LOVE acupuncture: I could spend 60-90 minutes working on a massage patient and then hear the relaxation ‘disappeared’ when someone cut them off and honked at them in traffic: BUMMER. As the 1st article shows, the research is in and Acupuncture has a lasting and cumulative effect on our nervous system.
Dr.Jenna Peterson (drjennapeterson.com), adjunct faculty at East West College of Natural Medicine since 2016, has been treating patients for over 25 years. She received her Master’s degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (MAOM) from AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine 2012. She specializes in the treatment of chronic pain, Esoteric Acupuncture, Facial Rejuvenation and Nutrition. Dr. Jenna is passionate about partnering with her patients to get them the results they want and need, be that improving their athletic perfomance, feeling and looking younger, or a complete “180º Lifestyle Makeover.”
Dr. Jenna Peterson is one of the adjunct professors teaching the Master of Science in Oriental Medicine Program.