According to TCM, stress is often caused by “unfulfilled desires” in our daily lives. Any strong emotion such as stress, anxiety, or depression interrupts the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body. Qi flows through the meridians which serve like a highway system. Stress functions like a traffic jam, blocking the free flow of Qi in the body. For example, many people who are stressed out complain of upper back, shoulder and neck pain. This is because stress is causing tension in those areas, blocking the free flow of Qi, causing pain and tightness. In a highway system, when there is road construction or an accident, traffic may be backed up on other secondary roads that feed into or out of the affected area. Similarly, stress may affect many other parts of the body, frequently digestion, the ability to sleep, circulation, and blood pressure. Stress can also aggravate an already troublesome health condition.
The key to treatment is to determine what areas of your body are being affected by the stress in your life. In addition to the tight neck, shoulders, and/or back that are common in people who have high stress levels, we need to consider the effect on different organs and systems. In TCM, Liver is often affected first since it is the organ that governs the coursing and discharging of Qi. Through detailed diagnostic methods, a practiciner can determine the patterns of imbalance that are presenting in the body as well as the organs/systems that are most affected. With this information, an individualized treatment can be constructed for each individual patient. Through acupuncture, the energy blockages can be addressed and help energy flow smoothly to alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety. This assists in creating the environment for inner healing to take place.
The effectiveness of acupuncture in treating stress is documented in the following two studies:
• A study published in Anesthesiology (June 2003) showed that the stress level in the acupuncture group decreased 66% for patients being transported to the hospital in ambulance. • A study published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease (June 2007) found that acupuncture provided treatment effects similar to group cognitive-behavioral therapy for people with posttraumatic stress disorder.