How does Acupuncture help Stress?


There are many tools that can be used to help with stress management. Massage, exercise, meditation, counselling and herbal medicines can all play important roles. I am often asked how acupuncture can help with stress. The role of acupuncture can best be understood by talking about the autonomic nervous system (ANS).

The ANS regulates the myriad of body functions that occur without conscious control including heart rate, digestion, breathing rate, salivation, perspiration, diameter of the pupils, urination, and sexual arousal. The role of the ANS can be simply explained as allowing the internal environment of the body to adapt to external factors. These factors can be physical such as postural strain, noise, and weather changes or emotional factors such as work and personal relationships. All of these factors are constantly changing and therefore require dynamic, appropriate responses. A stressed person no longer makes appropriate responses and their ANS no longer adapts in a balanced way leading to the cascade of symptoms we associate with stress.

Acupuncture is a powerful ANS regulator. When provided in a suitable setting the pins have a strong relaxing effect which follows on well after treatment, causing changes for up to three days afterwards. This helps to explain how acupuncture can help with insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, irritability, moods swings, and mild depression. In addition to traditional body points ear acupuncture can also be used which works directly on the ANS via cranial nerves.

The goal of effective treatment is to bring the body down from an ever escalating baseline of vigilance allowing for relaxation, wellbeing, reduced irritability and better decision making capacity. The drug-free nature of acupuncture means that it can be used on its own or freely in combination with other therapy such as prescribed medication or herbal medicine.