Acupuncture is a therapeutic technique rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that involves inserting fine, sterile needles into specific points on the body known as acupoints.
It is thought to work by stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities and balancing the flow of qi, or vital energy.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, stress, anxiety, or depression can interrupt the flow of energy, or Qi, throughout the body, causing a “traffic jam” that affects various bodily systems, such as digestion, blood pressure, pain sensation, and sleep. This is akin to blockages on a highway system affecting traffic in many areas.
Acupuncture can help address these energy blockages, promoting a smooth flow of energy, which can help alleviate stress and anxiety. It’s believed to work by stimulating the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Other ways that acupuncture can work for stress relief include improving blood circulation and removing cortisol along with other undesirable chemicals.
The overall acupuncture experience can also contribute to stress reduction. Typically, you will lie down on a comfortable table with low lighting and soft music, all of which can lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, and relax muscles.
The Difference Between Acupuncture and Acupressure
Acupuncture and acupressure are both practices derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and are based on the concept of life energy (Qi or Chi) flowing through meridians, or pathways, in the body. Both aim to restore and maintain health by balancing the body’s energy flow. However, they differ in the techniques used to stimulate the acupoints.
Acupuncture involves inserting very thin needles at specific points (acupoints) on the body. The needles are then manipulated by hand or by electrical stimulation to rebalance the energy flow.
Acupressure, on the other hand, simply involves massaging the acupoints with fingers. No needles are involved.
While acupressure can be performed by individuals on themselves, particularly to alleviate minor health concerns, acupuncture should always be performed by certified and trained practitioners, as it involves penetration of the skin with needles.
What Are the Most Effective Acupuncture Points for Stress Relief?
In using these points, your acupuncturist will aim to unblock Qi (energy) and help it flow more harmoniously throughout the body, thus reducing stress and anxiety. Here are some key acupuncture points often used for stress relief at our clinic:
Yin Tang: Yin Tang is a very well-known acupressure and acupuncture point located midway between the inner ends of the eyebrows. In acupuncture, Yin Tang is often used for its calming effect on the mind. It is used to treat stress, anxiety, insomnia, and to promote relaxation. It’s also used to treat frontal headaches and sinus congestion because of its location on the body.
HT7 – Shenmen: This point is located on the wrist, on the little finger side directly at the crease where the hand meets the wrist. Shenmen translates as ‘Spirit Gate,’ reflecting the point’s use in treatments addressing emotional and spiritual conditions. As the name suggests, Shenmen or “Spirit Gate” is often used to influence the mind and spirit, making it a powerful point in treatments aiming to alleviate emotional distress.
GV20 – Baihui: Located on the top of the head, midway between the ears. Baihui is used to clear the mind, uplift the spirit, and treat a variety of mental and neurological disorders. When it comes to stress relief, Baihui is believed to help clear the mind and uplift the spirit, potentially mitigating symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic stress.
LR3 – Taichong: This point is found on the foot, between the first and second toes, proximally at the depression before the junction of the metatarsal bones. LR3 is a powerful point for balancing the Liver Qi (energy), which can often become stagnant or excessive due to stress, frustration, or anger. When this happens, it may lead to physical symptoms like headaches, menstrual pain, or digestive upset, and emotional conditions such as anxiety, irritability, and depression.
P6 – Pericardium: Located on the inner forearm, approximately three finger-widths below the wrist between the two tendons, P6 (also known as Nei Guan) is primarily used to alleviate conditions related to the heart, chest, and stomach. In terms of stress relief, it is believed that stimulating P6 helps to balance the body’s energy, or Qi, and calm the mind, thus reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety.
GB21 – Jian Jing: This point is located on the top of the shoulder, midway between the spine and the acromion (the bony prominence on your shoulder). It is at the highest point of the muscle (trapezius) when the arm is hanging down. GB21 is a commonly used point for stress and tension relief, especially when these are held in the neck and shoulders.
Scientific Evidence Supporting Acupuncture For Stress Relief
There is some scientific evidence to support the use of acupuncture for stress relief. For example, a 2017 study published in the “Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies” found that acupuncture was successful in treating perceived stress among students and staff at a large urban campus.
Another study published in 2020 in the journal “PLoS One” concluded that acupuncture could serve as an effective treatment for persons suffering from chronic stress.
Incorporating Acupuncture Into Your Stress Management Routine
Regular acupuncture treatments can help manage your stress levels. The frequency can vary depending on your specific needs and the recommendations of your acupuncturist. Some people may benefit from weekly sessions, while others might need them less frequently.
At Form Recovery and Wellness, our Traditional Chinese Medicine therapists are fully certified experts that have years of experience with treating people from all walks of life and delivering positive results. Speak to Acupuncture experts at our clinic to find out how Acupuncture can help you manage stress and improve your overall well-being.