Ok so if you haven’t had acupuncture before you are probably wondering how can getting stuck with needles help with stress? Even for me, as an acupuncturist, I don’t like to get poked with needless when I go to the doctor… but I love getting acupuncture. So in other words, I can relate to your hesitation.
For those of you who have had acupuncture before you know this is a typical acupuncture experience… coming into a nice office (obviously some serious feng shui going on), relaxing atmosphere, nice calm acupuncturist who is listening to all that I want to work on. Then after having my pulse taken I get to lay down on the treatment table getting some points done (wow, did I even get any needles in?) and then just drifting off to acu-land where I feel like I am somewhere between sleeping and floating. Then my acupuncturist does some additional body work (maybe moxa or massage) and off I go back to the world. But now my world feels much more carefree and I have more energy to deal with all that life throws my way. Ah such happiness with free flowing qi.
I hope I have painted a picture of how relaxing and beneficial acupuncture is in reducing stress. But now I want to talk about how acupuncture actually does promote relaxation and stress reduction.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
I will answer this question from a western medicine perspective since this is the perspective most of us have, unless we have been trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Acupuncture works by:
- Stimulating our parasympathetic nervous system (aka the “rest and digest” system by releasing neurotransmitters and endorphins into the body).
- Regulating our immune system (that’s how it can both treat allergies/autoimmune diseases AND also boost the immune system of someone immunocompromised).
- Reducing inflammation by changing circulatory patterns (i.e. brings fresh blood to an acute or chronic injury and takes the inflammatory process away leading to pain relief and increased healing).
Another great source for explaining how acupuncture works comes from the John Hopkins Medicine Health Library.