Sleepless nights. Pounding heart. A constant sense of relentless darkness. These are the hallmarks of insomnia, stress, anxiety and depression. People who suffer from these afflictions seek calm, and acupuncture and Chinese medicine is a proven way to find it. Though the pressures we feel may be a response to the modern world, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have been used to successfully treat and bring relief to both the physical and emotional state of our being for thousands of years.
Within the philosophy of Chinese medicine, there is no dividing line between the physical body and our emotions. Western medicine is now acknowledging and understanding that these systems work hand-in-hand. Both stress and lack of sleep have a significant effect on the wellbeing of the entire body. When you are under stress, the body releases unhealthy levels of hormones that cause inflammation and lead to conditions ranging from cardiovascular conditions, autoimmune disorders and obesity to Alzheimer’s disease. Being under constant stress, anxiety and sleep deprivation also effects lifestyle choices. When we are fatigued and drained, we are less likely to cook nutritious food or get adequate exercise. This adds to a negative feedback loop. Over time, this internal discord impacts our immune system and can severely diminish optimism and a sense of wellbeing. Acupuncture has proven to be an effective tool for restoring a healthy balance in both body and mind, as well as for interrupting stress-related negative feedback loops.
Chinese Medicine’s View of Physical and Emotional Wellbeing
Chinese medicine works by influencing and guiding the flow of energy running through channels in the body. These meridians correspond with and connect organs, our body’s life force, and material resources. Blockages in these channels result in imbalances that can be reflected in patterns of chronic physical or emotional symptoms depending upon which of the identified organs are affected. Chronic anger or irritability is often linked to excess in the gallbladder. Not only can this manifest as irritability, anger or agitation, but physical symptoms such as digestive reflux or GERD or PMS may also be experienced in this type of imbalance. Proper identification of the pattern of disharmony through diagnosis, and the appropriate selection of acupuncture points, can often bring relief quickly.
Depression, stress, anxiety and insomnia affect millions of Americans. Those who seek medical treatment are generally prescribed medications meant to either raise or lower levels of chemicals within the body, and many are also offered counseling. Though these are helpful, many of the medications prescribed can have unintended side effects, including reduced sexual desire, nausea, blurred vision and loss of memory or the ability to concentrate. Acupuncture has been proven an effective way to treat stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia as a stand-alone treatment. It has also been shown to improve the effect of prescription medications while eliminating many of their side effects.
There have been numerous studies that have pointed to the power of acupuncture in treating anxiety and stress, and the mounting evidence has led the Anxiety and Depression Association of America to advise its website visitors that “evidence for the use of acupuncture to treat anxiety disorders is becoming stronger.” Those studies have revealed that acupuncture’s needles stimulate the body to release endorphins and flush out cortisol and other stress-related hormones and chemicals. A study conducted at Georgetown University Medical Center showed that acupuncture controlled reactions to stress, while an English study proved that the use of acupuncture in combination with antidepressants provided greater relief for patients than counseling in combination with medication did.
While it is always important to have an honest, collaborative and compliant relationship with your physicians, patients who seek relief can often find results with acupuncture. In conjunction with your current prescribed treatment plan or as a stand-alone therapy, acupuncture can be discussed. One study indicated that acupuncture was slightly more effective than Prozac in reducing symptoms of depression, actually raising the levels of a protein found to be in low levels in patients with depressive disorders and doing so faster than the popular medication. Importantly, another study showed that twelve weeks of acupuncture significantly helped patients suffering from the sexual function side effects of their anti-depressants.
There are a wide range of important physiologic effects that acupuncture has been shown to provide for patients struggling with mood disorders and panic attacks. One study showed acupuncture decreases stress response and increases healthy heart rate, while others have shown that acupuncture treatments creates measurable change in the autonomic nervous system and affecting brain activity in the hippocampus, thalamus and hypothalamus. Each of these brain areas plays an important role in how we feel and how we engage with the world around us.
For those struggling with insomnia, both acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been clinically proven to have a beneficial effect. The herbs that are used have been shown to act through the brain’s receptors, upregulating the intake of hormones that improve sleep, while acupuncture often increases sleep duration more effectively than sleep medications, without any adverse effects.
Chinese Medicine and acupuncture have proven to be remarkably effective in easing the symptoms of insomnia, stress, anxiety and depression. Sharon Sherman has been licensed to practice acupuncture and Oriental Medicine since 2001, and holds the highest credential available from both the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine and the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Her knowledge and understanding of its use assure patients of the highest level of care and professionalism