Many health conditions can crop up as a result of chronic stress and/or worsen due to stress. Some examples are indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); weakened immune function (i.e. frequent colds); hypertension (high blood pressure); headaches and migraines; menstrual irregularities, menstrual cramps, PMS and PMDD; anxiety, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression; insomnia; fatigue; low libido; and muscle tension and pain. Stress is often a factor in these conditions and others because it affects the nervous system and various hormones that are released in times of stress, affecting various systems of the body.
Acupuncture is helpful for stress and stress-related ailments because it helps to regulate the nervous system and hormones. There are also acupuncture points used for particular health conditions and symptoms, whether those symptoms are related to stress or not. The holistic approach of acupuncture takes into account both the “root,” meaning issues underlying one’s health condition(s), and the “branch,” or symptoms one experiences stemming from the root. With each treatment points are selected to treat both the roots and branches.
What can you do about ongoing stress, particularly when it’s situational (work-related, family-related, caretaking, etc.)? Take care of yourself as best as possible and find outlets for stress relief when you can. Exercise, deep breathing, time outside and talking with loved ones are all healthy ways to manage stress on a day to day basis. Acupuncture once every week or two is a great way to de-stress and stay healthy. If you have a health condition that is linked to stress, it’s helpful to obtain acupuncture regularly depending on the severity: once a week when mild, twice a week when moderate, and 3 or more times if severe. You can always ask an acupuncturist for a recommended course of treatment, and feel free to experiment with frequency for yourself to obtain an outcome that feels helpful for you.
Self care has become a trendy phrase, but it shouldn’t be considered a fad; rather, learning to be in touch with our physical and emotional needs and providing our bodies with timely care is a healthy long-term goal to have. Some self care is preventive (eating a balanced diet; regular exercise; getting enough sleep) and some is responsive (getting extra rest when you’re sick).
Where does acupuncture fit in? Acupuncture can be used as both preventive and responsive self care. Many of our patients find a weekly, biweekly or monthly acupuncture session to be a healthy preventive method of self care that keeps them feeling more relaxed, better able to cope with stress, sleeping more soundly or experiencing less pain. Others are so relieved when they can pop in for an acupuncture treatment on short notice for any number of things: relief after a stressful day, fatigue, a headache or migraine, acute pain, etc.
You can add acupuncture to your self care tool kit with other methods such as exercise, a warm bath or a nap. When your body is telling you it needs some relief, acupuncture may be just the thing that can help!
In Chinese medicine we talk about causes of disease and health imbalances in terms of “excess” and “deficiency.” The holiday season is typically a time of excess:
- Excess indulgence of rich foods, drinks and alcohol
- Excess activity: running around shopping, attending parties and social events, cooking, cleaning, hosting parties and house guests, traveling, etc.
- Excessive stress and emotions that often occur at this time of year: difficult family dynamics; feelings of sadness, loss and grief that may come up when we find ourselves missing loved ones during this time; Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – aka the winter blues; and societal pressure for this to be “the most wonderful time of the year” when we just aren’t feeling that way.
All of this excess can then cause deficiency – or depletion – of energy and/or motivation, or a mix of stress (excess) and fatigue (deficiency). We may feel drained, exhausted, unmotivated and/or depressed, or perhaps we feel “wired and tired,” revved-up but unable to wind down, with restless sleep or insomnia at night and adrenaline keeping us going during the day masking the underlying fatigue. Maybe we feel sluggish or our digestion is off-kilter.
Our activities and our emotions are intertwined and the great thing about Chinese medicine is that it addresses all of these issues at the same time. Acupuncture can help us feel more balanced at times when we may be experiencing highs and lows by calming the nervous system and releasing our own endogenous opioids, helping us to experience a feeling of well-being and calm. Enjoy a happier, more relaxing and balanced holiday season with acupuncture.
A recent review by the NIH found acupuncture to be an effective treatment for back pain and osteoarthritis of the knee. This is no surprise to us! We’re happy to say we frequently treat all kinds of pain conditions with acupuncture and in the majority of cases it is helpful. We think this study is great because it acknowledges and promotes the use of acupuncture and other non-drug approaches for pain management. The study may encourage more doctors to recommend acupuncture to patients seeking pain relief and may help patients cut back on pain medication usage.
An OB-GYN maternal fetal medicine specialist published this recent opinion article recommending acupuncture for fertility. This is a very positive article, and we’re very happy to say that we’ve seen many of our patients using acupuncture for infertility who went on to become pregnant and deliver healthy babies! The author, Dr. Clark, highlights the stress and emotional difficulties around infertility and the role of acupuncture in harmonizing the mind and body. Acupuncture not only helps with the physiological aspects of fertility, it also helps with stress reduction and feelings of well-being, and these in turn can help promote fertility.
Sometimes people ask us what health conditions we treat most frequently at Acupuncture Together, or how acupuncture can help them. It’s also good for people to know that they aren’t alone with their health challenges, that these conditions are quite common and that we are experienced at helping people with these every day.
Here are the conditions that people seek acupuncture for most commonly in our practice, all of which tend to get good results when received with the frequency recommended by your acupuncturist:
- Musculoskeletal pain conditions (neck, jaw/TMJ, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, finger/thumb, carpal tunnel, low back, sciatica, hip, knee, ankle, foot/plantar fasciatis, toe and more) – Acupuncture is a great treatment for all types of joint and muscle pains, whether it’s due to arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis, autoimmune diseases or other conditions such as Morton’s Neuroma, Baker’s cysts, De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, etc. In particular, low back pain is probably the number one most frequently treated condition of all. Acupuncture is widely known as an effective treatment for low back pain, and for pain in general. MDs and physical therapists often suggest to their patients that they try acupuncture for musculoskeletal pain, and we find that many of our patients are able to reduce or eliminate pain medications and sometimes even avoid surgery when they’ve been treated with acupuncture.
- Stress – In our modern, fast-paced world, who doesn’t experience some degree of stress? Whether it’s related to work, school, family, health problems or rush hour traffic, most people feel themselves experiencing some stress and tension. For many people, stress can be the root of other troubles such as insomnia, muscle tension and digestive problems. Acupuncture is awesome for stress relief! It calms the nervous system, and as it works to reduce your stress, it can help to improve other stress-related symptoms, too.
- Anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Much like stress, anxiety and PTSD are big challenges for many people. Some people experience panic attacks, difficulty sleeping, a racing heart and/or inability to focus. Acupuncture is excellent for relieving anxiety, calming the “fight or flight” response and reducing associated symptoms.
- Insomnia – Whether it’s difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, we’ve got some great points for you! Acupuncture is generally helpful for sleep, and there are specific points that we use for particular sleep problems (such as stress related or menopausal related sleep disturbances). Many of our patients who don’t even request treatment for sleep mention to us at follow-up appointments that they’ve been sleeping better after receiving acupuncture. If you’ve been having difficulty sleeping, definitely give acupuncture a try!
- Infertility – So many hopeful parents-to-be come to us seeking help with fertility. Acupuncture helps to gently regulate hormones and can be used as a stand alone treatment or concurrently with fertility treatments such as Clomid, IUI and IVF to boost chances of conceiving. It’s also beneficial for stress reduction and overall health, and can relieve the uncomfortable side-effects of fertility medications. Some of our patients decide to begin working on fertility before they try to conceive, while others decide to give acupuncture a try after they’ve been trying for awhile. No matter the situation, we’ll do our best to help. We’re delighted to have seen many of our patients become pregnant and go on to have healthy babies!
- Headaches & Migraines – We’ve seen many patients who were experiencing debilitating migraines experience positively dramatic results with acupuncture. Some patients who have missed days of work or leisure time, forced to go lay down in a quiet dark room, have been able to avoid those types of days and live happier, more productive lives when they receive acupuncture on a regular basis. Acupuncture can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines and other headaches, such as tension headaches and sinus headaches, as well.
- Allergies – Seasonal and environmental allergy symptoms such as sinus congestion and pressure, runny nose, sneezing and itchy/watery eyes can be alleviated with acupuncture. It can be used for prevention/maintenance as well as for symptom reduction when the season/exposure is at its peak.
- Pregnancy Support – Throughout pregnancy, acupuncture is a safe, natural and effective treatment for various discomforts and can be used to prepare for a healthy and efficient labor. Patients are frequently referred to us by their midwives for various pregnancy related concerns and general health issues when medications are best avoided during pregnancy.
- Fibromyalgia – Experiencing widespread chronic pain is very challenging. Acupuncture is very good at pain management and reduction. We focus on generalized pain and also use points to target any particularly bad spots. Regular acupuncture alleviates the discomforts of fibromyalgia and can also help improve mood and sleep, so you feel a sense of overall wellness.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Acid Reflux/GERD, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and other digestive symptoms – Digestive problems can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Acupuncture can help regulate and improve digestive function so you feel more comfortable, less distracted by symptoms and better able to enjoy life.
There are other conditions for which acupuncture can be helpful, so if you’re curious about being treated for something that isn’t listed above or on our conditions treated page, please ask! You are welcome to call us at 617-499-9993 and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Most of the time our patients come in because they have a health condition for which they want relief. Acupuncture is not only effective for the treatment of a wide range of conditions, it is also effective as preventive medicine, that is, health care used for the prevention of disease. Acupuncture is an excellent tool for promoting general health and reducing the prevalence of imbalances such as stress, irritability, insomnia, fatigue and the like.
Acupuncture has its place among other healthy lifestyle habits and therapies such as healthy eating, adequate sleep, moderate exercise, yoga, massage and mindfulness based stress reduction techniques. Instead of waiting until something feels “off” or “way off,” acupuncture on some regular or periodic basis such as weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly can foster a sense of well-being, reduce tension and improve the body’s immune response. It’s relaxing and calming to the nervous system. When you consider the fact that many health problems are caused or worsened by stress (some examples include digestive disorders, muscle tension, insomnia, depression, anxiety, frequent common colds/lowered immune response and PMS), it makes sense that the use of acupuncture, which reduces stress, would also help to prevent illnesses and imbalances.