Acupuncture and Stress Management

by JoNell Norcini, L. Ac. M.A.O.M.

What is stress and how does it affect our health?  Stress is a natural and necessary part of life.  Without stress, we would not even bother to get out of bed in the morning.  Stress motivates us to get things done.

In nature, stress is referred to as the “fight-or-flight” response.  It is an instinct that motivates us to run from danger.  When the body senses danger, a part of the brain called the hypothalamus sets off a chemical alarm.  This alarm activates the sympathetic nervous system to release hormones to get us up and running.  These hormones, such as adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol, have distinct physiological effects on the body such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, increased respiration rate and decreased rate of digestion, just to name a few.  This is all well and good if we were running from a sabre-toothed tiger.  This response to stress gives us the physical ability to escape a dangerous situation.  The problem is that, in today’s society, our sabre-toothed tiger is what we call” life”!  Whether it is your job, traffic, children or financial issues, we are all constantly being exposed to stressful situations and there is no end in sight.

What effects does this constant barrage of stress hormones have on our bodies?  Well, as indicated above, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and digestive issues.  Stress has also been indicated to increase the incidence of auto-immune disease and has a negative impact on fertility.

What is the “point” of acupuncture and how can it help manage stress?  Acupuncture helps the body to relax and increases the level of endorphins in the blood.  Endorphins are the “feel-good” hormones that are chemically very similar to morphine.  This release of endorphins has a positive effect on your moods, raises your threshold for pain and boosts your immune system.  Increased endorphins have also been linked to increased levels of serotonin and decreased levels of cortisol.

While we cannot escape from life to allow ourselves to relax and self-adjust, we can seek acupuncture treatments.  By doing so, we are allowing our bodies to heal naturally and improving our quality of life.

If you decide that you would like to try acupuncture, please visit www.nccaom.org to find a properly trained professional.

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