18 Mar 2016

Treating Stress and Anxiety with Acupuncture

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The role of acupuncture, qigong, and Chinese herbal medicines for treating stress and anxiety has become undisputed as the evidence piles in. Almost one in five of the calls coming into my office are related to stress and anxiety, with questions about the effectiveness of Chinese medicine to manage these conditions.

Almost 20% of calls to my office are for stress and anxiety.

If you could see the “before acupuncture treatment” and “after acupuncture treatment” snapshots that are in my memory bank for many clients, you would understand my passion in highlighting this vehicle for helping people manage stress/anxiety/depression. It is now estimated that between 60% to 80% of visits to a primary care doctor are related to stress, yet only 3% of patients receive stress management help. (See JAMA Intern Med. 2013, pp. 76-77).

60% – 80% of visits to a primary care doctors are related to stress.

Chinese medicine, with its three branches of qigong, acupuncture, and herbs are helping many people with debilitating stress and anxiety. Please help get the word out there!

What Stress and Anxiety Do to the Body

Stress affects the entire body and can cause a number of other problems. From headaches and teeth grinding to heart disease and digestive disorders, stress and anxiety take their toll. When stress kicks in, our cognitive function is impaired, our energy is drained, and we are robbed of our effectiveness and clarity. Our bodies don’t even discriminate between a large stressor and a small one—the same cascade of biochemical events takes place every time. In fact, I am observing that as a society we have become virtually numb to the daily pressures and stressors until something unexpected shows up, like an emotional overreaction or an unwanted diagnosis from a doctor. Stress needs to be dealt with in the moment, not tolerated all day until we collapse at home, or tolerated all year until we take that big vacation to Hawaii. If we could see the effects within our bodies of chronic stress and anxiety, we would be more likely to take proactive steps. Conventionally, that would include medications such as the anti-anxiety drugs—Valium or Ativan. My callers are looking for something beyond drugs, with their notorious side effects and the tendency to become addictive.

How Acupuncture Treats Stress and Anxiety

There has been research that explains how acupuncture treatments specifically address symptoms of stress and anxiety. We know that stress activates the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight” syndrome), and that acupuncture activates the parasympathetic nervous system—which initiates the relax, rest, and digest response. Amazingly, a deep relaxation occurs in the body even if the treatment is designed to handle something unrelated, like back pain or asthma. Because the placement of tiny needles at specific points can bring the body into balance, a byproduct of virtually every acupuncture treatment is a deep sense of calm and well-being. So when the entire treatment is designed to handle the emotional overload of stress, anxiety, and (often) concomitant depression, we get profound results. I will often add medical qigong to my treatment protocol, and teach the client a few simple but powerful qigong forms before they leave.

Chinese Herbs for Stress and Anxiety

Additionally, I recommend a Chinese herbal formula for stress/anxiety/depression that is labeled CALM. I cannot keep it in stock! CALM, from Evergreen Herbs, is designed to alleviate stress and anxiety by enhancing our body’s own ability to deal with the external factors. Additionally, this formula is not addictive, there is no set amount to take, one takes it as needed, and the Chinese herbs contained are safe and natural, without negative side effects. CALM is very reasonably priced at about $18 depending on shipping prices. (I intentionally do not mark up Chinese herbal formulas, because I want my clients to have them and use them and experience the benefits!)

Changing Your Lifestyle

Finally, a discussion of lifestyle changes is important when delving into this topic. The benefit of regular exercise and adequate rest are big pieces of the picture and should not be overlooked. And whenever possible, getting outside into nature, experiencing the grounding force of earth’s vibrant energy, doing something different and enjoyable—all are important pieces of our quest for balance, enhanced well-being, and feeling positive about life.

I Can Help

Chinese medicine plays a significant role in this worthy cause. Please call me for help with this issue!

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About the Author


Janet Barrows, has a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine (MSOM) from the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College in Berkeley, CA. She is a California State Licensed Acupuncturist (L. Ac.) practicing acupuncture and integrative medicine in Santa Rosa, CA. Her practice includes acupuncture, natural herbs, facial rejuvenation, nutrition, and medical qigong.