Stress and Anxiety

At Alberta College of Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine, our College Clinicians use acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to help stressed patients on a daily basis. 

Stress is a common complaint cited by acupuncture patients, with a variety of possible associated symptoms. The most prevalent of these is anxiety, (see the Anxiety Fact Sheet for details). There are also fact sheets on other conditions that are affected by stress, such as back pain, chronic pain, depression, headache, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, menopausal symptoms, migraines, premenstrual syndrome and urinary incontinence.

There is no magic stress-reduction pill, and alcohol, sleeping tablets, and antidepressants don't offer any real solution to reducing stress. Antidepressants, although often prescribed to reduce stress, have side-effects and risks that may not always work out for everyone. Long-term physiological dependence is also a concern.

Although, acupuncture can provide a safe and effective tool for stress, it will not change the circumstances of a person’s life, but it will help to produce a feeling of well-being. At our College Clinic, we will first identify each individual’s unique energy profile to see where the weak spots are and what support is needed in order to restore energy balance. We will then choose relevant treatment methods (acupuncture, herbal formulas, moxibustion, cupping, diet therapy, etc.) to help restore balance and protect health.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine provide a window of opportunity to help all type of stress and affiliated symptoms. As the heavy feelings of stress are relieved, a person feels more confidence in his ability to cope with unpleasant aspects of his life situation and make necessary changes to reduce the stressors in his/her life..

Researchers believe acupuncture can stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body's homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being. Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically benefit anxiety disorders and symptoms of anxiety by:

  • Acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain, which is responsible for anxiety and worry (Hui 2010; Hui 2009);
  • Improving stress induced memory impairment and an increasing AchE reactivity in the hippocampus (Kim 2011);
  • Reducing serum levels of corticosterone and the number of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive cells (Park 2010);
  • Regulating levels of neurotransmitters (or their modulators) and hormones such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, GABA, neuropeptide Y and ACTH; hence altering the brain’s mood chemistry to help to combat negative affective states (Lee 2009; Cheng 2009; Zhou 2008);
  • Stimulating production of endogenous opioids that affect the autonomic nervous system (Arranz 2007). Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, while acupuncture can activate the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates the relaxation response;
  • Reversing pathological changes in levels of inflammatory cytokines that are associated with stress reactions (Arranz 2007); and reducing inflammation by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kavoussi 2007, Zijlstra 2003);
  • Reversing stress-induced changes in behaviour and biochemistry (Kim 2009).