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How Acupuncture helps relieve the symptoms of stress - advanced sports and family chiropractic and acupunctureHow Does Acupuncture Help Relieve the Symptoms Associated with Stress?

Stress. It affects everyone, and according to the World Health Organization, Stress has been dubbed the “Health Epidemic of the 21st Century”.[1] If a person was to “Google” their symptoms, the results would highlight a plethora of health concerns leaning towards a number of different health-related issues.

Stress is associated with the hypothalamus and amygdala in the brain. Here, chemicals are produced that create the “fight or flight” stressors. Not all stress is bad. In small doses, stress can help you accomplish tasks and prevent you from getting hurt. For example, stress is what gets you to slam on the breaks to avoid hitting the car in front of you. Our bodies are designed to handle small doses of stress. But we are not equipped to handle long-term, chronic stress without ill consequences.[2]


What are Some Symptoms of Stress?

Stress affects the body emotionally, physically, and behaviorally.  Some symptoms include:

Emotional Stress:

  • Easily frustrated
  • Mood swings
  • Unable to quiet the mind
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Racing thoughts
  • Forgetfulness and disorganization
  • Unable to focus

Physical Stress

  • Lack of energy
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach including nausea, diarrhea, heartburn (GERD)
  • Insomnia
  • Chest pain
  • Joint and muscle pain

Behavioral Stress

  • Changes in appetite
  • Increased use of drugs, alcohol
  • Nail biting, fidgeting or pacing

When stress causes severe symptoms, many ask their doctor for prescription medications. Common prescriptions include benzodiazepines. (Xanax, Valium, Ativan). Benzodiazepines help reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress and help with some sleep disorders, such as insomnia.  The risks of benzodiazepines are well documented and involve physical as well as psychological effects. These include their potential to promote dependence or acute toxicity in overdose.[3]


How Acupuncture Helps Relieve the Symptoms of Stress

Acupuncture has several different effects on the body and the brain. It affects the central nervous system and triggers the release of endorphins. These are the brain’s natural “feel-good” chemicals. They reduce stress and give a feeling of general well-being.

Acupuncture may also alter your brainwaves in a similar way to meditation. Research has shown that acupuncture improves attention, improves sleep and reduces anxiety[4].

There are 14 major energy-channel’ called “Meridians” which communicate with the body’s natural energy flow called “QI.”

These include 360 different points on the hands, arms, feet, head, back and over the major organs. By inserting needles lightly into certain points on the body, the qi flow can be tapped into, and energy can be rebalanced.

Acupuncture points tend to be located where nerves enter a muscle, the midpoint of a muscle, or at a point where muscle joins with bone.

When a person is in a state of stress, their brain is signaled to activate and release peptides and proteins such as corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). They, in turn, launch the production of other hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine that rev up the anxiety meter. Once activated, the system causes the heart to beat faster and the senses to go on alert[5].

Acupuncture helps relax and calm the brain and reduce the release of the stress-inducing chemicals in the body. During this “me time” a person can relax and escape from their busy life. In this moment, they can regroup, refresh and start anew.

Other ways to help reduce stress include:

  • Taking a walk
  • Listening to music
  • Yoga
  • Meditation

[1] Fink, George. (2017). Stress: Concepts, Definition and History. 10.1016/B978-0-12-809324-5.02208-2.
[2] Stress Symptoms. (n.d.). Retrieved from
[3] D. Warren Spence, M. L. (2004, February 1). Acupuncture Increases Nocturnal Melatonin Secretion and Reduces Insomnia and Anxiety: A Preliminary Report. Retrieved from
[4] S., N. (2017, August 29). Is Acupuncture Good for Stress and Anxiety? Retrieved from
[5] Park, A. (2013, March 15). Needle This: Study Hints at How Acupuncture Works to Relieve Stress. Retrieved from

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