We all experience stress in our lives, and we all deal with it differently. Stress, especially chronic stress, can have a powerful effect on our bodies. On a physical level, blood pressure increases, digestion slows, and the immune system is weakened. On a psychological level, chronic stress can lead to anxiety and even depression. We can feel during times of stress or anxiety that we are somehow “out of balance”. Over long periods of time that feeling may diminish –but the imbalance does not. Generally it only gets worse. Acupuncture can help restore our emotional and physical balance at the same time, as these two aspects of our health are completely intertwined.
In 2013, a study by doctors at the University of York public health department found that acupuncture, when combined with usual care, was as effective as counseling in treating anxiety and depression–and more effective than pharmaceutical drugs alone. While much research remains to be done on the connections between acupuncture and mental health, these results should hardly be surprising.
One reason that acupuncture is so successful in treating anxiety and stress is that these are conditions with causes and symptoms unique to individual patients. There is no universally effective treatment for stress or anxiety, pharmaceutical or otherwise, and this presents a problem for conventional Western medicine. Acupuncture, on the other hand, is a fundamentally holistic treatment modality which aims to treat the causes of all our ailments, including our psychological ones.
Amongst other effects, acupuncture can improve circulation of blood and lymph and release endorphins that help us cope with pain and stress. Particularly when combined with meditation and centering exercises like yoga or t’ai chi, we can not only relieve the symptoms of stress, but prevent it from arising in the future. When the mind is healthy and worry-free, the body follows suit.