Acupuncture for stress and anxiety (case study)
Nina, 34 years old women decided to try acupuncture when she realized that cannot cope with even small issues of her busy everyday life. She had started to have anxiety attacks 2 years ago, which get worse 6 months ago when she started new job in a busy IT company based in London city. She had seen her psychiatrist once a week, but this was not really helpful. At initial consultation her stress level was 8 out of 10. She told she has been having irritability, fear of losing control, palpitations, oppression of the chest, acid regurgitation after meals, abdominal discomfort with diarrhoea and foggy brain on a daily basis. Her tongue was little swollen with sticky yellowish coating, pulse slippery.
Anxiety and Stress
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. When it starts to manifest excessively and irrationally in everyday situations then it becomes disabling disorder. When faced with a stress, the body’s defences kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” response. This “fight-or-flight” stress response involves a series of biological changes that prepare body for action. When danger is sensed, nerve signals send the message to the brain. The signals reach amygdale, which in turn alerts a small part of the brain called the hypothalamus which controls hormone production. The sympathetic nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol. These stress hormones race through the bloodstream, readying us to either flee the scene or battle it out. However, extended or repeated activation of the stress response do a lot of damage for the body.
Prolonged exposure to stress increases the risk of heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression etc. Additionally, the digestive and reproductive systems slow down, growth hormones are switched off, and the immune response is inhibited. Recent research suggests that 60-90% of illness is stress-related. Some medical conditions caused or exacerbated by stress are high blood pressure, chronic pain, migraines, PMS, infertility, skin problems, IBS, heartburn, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, alcohol/drugs abuse and many others.
Traditional Chinese Medical Treatment for Stress Management
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) focuses to treat liver, spleen, and heart organ systems and meridians when treating anxiety and stress and their physical and/or emotional manifestations. Stress causes a blockage of Qi (vital energy) leading body to the physical or emotional pain and further leading to other serious medical conditions over a longer time period
This blockage of Qi initially impacts the liver organ system and irritability, frustration, anger, depression, disturbed digestion, hormonal disorders, and blood pressure issues can arise. However, over time the spleen and kidney organ systems become taxed and fatigue, diabetes and autoimmune diseases may develop.
Acupuncture can help to handle stress. From a Western Medical perspective, needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. Acupuncture relieves pain and stress through its endorphin-producing benefits. Endorphins are “feel-good” chemicals that flood the body in response to a biochemical chain of events triggered by the body’s perception of an inserted acupuncture needle. Increased endorphins are linked to increased levels of serotonin as well as a decrease in cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
For the first few treatments with Nina I focused to calm her Mind, nourish Qi/blood and resolve Phlegm. Also I gave her few tips about the nutrition and everyday diet to improve her digestion. She responded very well to treatments: after 6 treatments her foggy brain significantly improved, she could concentrate on her task at work more easily and think clearly. The nourishment of Qi/blood and dissolving Phlegms in the body eventually reduced her stress levels as acupuncture needles unblocked the obstructions and Qi started to move freely along the meridians. For the next 6 treatments I’ve continued to treat her Spleen to improve transformation &transportation of food and Kidney to improve body’s fluid metabolism, while also kept nourishing her Heart and moving Liver I. Nina stopped having diarrhoea at all, and her digestion and acid reflux improved a lot, stress level dropped to 2. She was very impressed how acupuncture treatments improved her life quality and she keeps coming once a month on regular basis because she just simply loves acupuncture.
Here you can find information about the evidence for stress management with Chinese acupuncture: