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Acupuncture and Stress Relief: An Overview

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Acupuncture is the ancient Chinese technique of inserting very fine needles into certain points (there are over 2000) in the body, also called acupoints. The belief is that Qi (chi), or energy, flows throughout the body along certain meridians and that if these are blocked in any way, illness can result. Acupuncture is meant to unblock these channels, treating different conditions and diseases. The word acupuncture actually means “to puncture with a needle,” but different techniques are used to stimulate these points, including simple pressure.

For What Can Acupuncture Be Used?

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Acupuncture is practiced widely in many areas of the world, especially China, Japan, and other East Asian countries. In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) reviewed the extensive research studies done on acupuncture and published a list of illnesses and conditions that they believe have been proven to respond favorably to the technique. These conditions are as follows, according to AcupunctureToday.com (Amaro, 2004).

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  • Low back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Sciatica
  • Tennis elbow
  • Knee pain
  • Periarthritis of the shoulder
  • Sprains
  • Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
  • Headache
  • Dental pain
  • Temporomandibular (TMJ) dysfunction
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Induction of labor
  • Correction of malposition of a fetus (breech presentation)
  • Morning sickness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Postoperative pain
  • Stroke
  • Essential hypertension
  • Primary hypotension
  • Renal colic
  • Leukopenia
  • Adverse reactions to radiation or chemotherapy
  • Allergic rhinitis, including hay fever
  • Biliary colic
  • Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
  • Acute bacillary dysentery
  • Primary dysmenorrhea
  • Acute epigastralgia
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Acute and chronic gastritis

There are also many disorders for which the WHO felt there was evidence of acupuncture’s efficacy but determined that further study is necessary for definitive recognition.

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New Evidence for Using Acupuncture to Relieve Stress

A study published in 2013 showed that rats that were treated with electronic acupuncture (to be sure that each rat received the same amount of pressure on the point) prior to being exposed to stress did not show increases in stress hormone levels after the stressful stimulus. Rats that were not treated with acupuncture prior to the stressor or that were given a sham acupuncture technique in a different spot did have increases in those stress hormone levels (Eshkevari L1, 2013).

The acupuncture point used in the study was one just below the knee, a point reported by TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioners to reduce stress.

Stress hormones that are present in the body at consistently high levels can result in or contribute to many different health concerns such as depression, anxiety, heart disease, and insomnia. This research study indicates that receiving acupuncture prior to stressors may decrease the resultant negative effects. Whether or not acupuncture can decrease stress when it is performed after the stressor (as treatment rather than prevention) is the subject of current research.

If you’re interested in trying out acupuncture as a way to reduce your chronic stress, you can visit this website to search for practitioners near you: mx.nccaom.org/FindAPractitioner.aspx.

 

Works Cited

  1. Amaro, J. (2004, Oct.). What Conditions Does Acupuncture Treat (According to the World Health Organization)? Retrieved from Acupuncture Today.
  2. Eshkevari L1, P. E. (2013, Feb. 4). Acupuncture blocks cold stress-induced increases in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis in the rat. Retrieved from Journal of Endocrinology: DOI: 10.1530/JOE-12-0404.

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