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  • Writer's pictureDr. Doug Pooley

Can Acupuncture Help Relieve My Stress?

What is Stress?

Everybody will experience some type of stress at one point in their life. This is all part of being human. The stress response is usually self-limited, usually disappearing once the stressor (the threat causing the stress) are gone. It is important to have these stress responses, so long as they are limited, as they allow us to copy with continual change.

Stress involves our nervous system, in particular, the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system can be divided into 2 systems: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Stress temporarily triggers a series of chemical reactions, specifically to the SNS. This is call the "flight or fight" response. This is our survival response, allowing us to defend ourselves when in danger. This response increases specific hormones in our body such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase our heart rate, our breathing and increase the mount of sugar and blood flow to our muscles, getting us ready to run and fight.

On the contrary, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) has the exact opposite effect on our bodies. It is the calming system that allows us to relax, rest, digest and sleep. It is essentially the opposite of SNS. When the SNS is stimulated, the PNS is "turned off" and vice versa.

What Problems Can Stress Cause?

Once the body is under stress, again it stimulates our "fight or flight" mode. This response stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and "turns off" the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). This should be time limited, meaning once the threat or stressor is removed, the nervous system and the body should begin to normalize. However, if we are under chronic stress over long periods of time due to stressors from work, family, dealing with a death of a loved one or financial worries, the nervous system goes on autopilot and into what I call "sympathetic overdrive". At this state, we are not able to normalize our nervous system ourselves. The body stays in a state of a fight or flight response (sympathetic overdrive) even after the treat or stressor has been removed. This can cause a whole range of symptoms, including headaches, jaw clenching, insomnia, breathing problems, depression/anxiety, digestive disorders, high blood pressure and excessive sweating.

How Can Acupuncture Help?

Acupuncture is wonderful for balancing and normalizing the nervous system. There are point on the body that can calm the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). It is a very relaxing, comfortable form of treatment that can improve your sleep, decrease your pain and improve your mood. Acupuncture, in addition to a healthy diet, massage, and a regular exercise program, is an excellent way to manage stress and live a happier and more balanced life!

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