Life Can Be Stressful and Painful
Jenny Dull-Frost L.Ac. Dipl. OM
113 North Mason St., Arroyo Grande, CA
8935 Morro Rd., Suite 1, Atascadero, CA 93422
High amounts of stress can exacerbate existing pain, and pain
causes a great stress on our body. Secondary symptoms can start
developing such as insomnia, depression, fatigue, hormone
imbalances (irregular menstrual cycles, menopausal symptoms),
anxiety, panic attacks, weight gain—the list goes on. Putting the
body under constant “fight or flight” cycles, can imbalance our limbic
system in the brain, which governs the hormones, emotional center,
and other physiological functions.
Western medical researchers (mostly radiologists, anesthesiologists,
neurologists, and acupuncturists/medical doctors) in the last 30 years
in the United States and abroad have revealed interesting information
about our body’s response when receiving acupuncture for pain,
depression, nausea, stress, etc. Ultrasounds, magnetic resonance
imaging (MRI), brain scans, and randomized control studies show
evidence that the body changes in response to acupuncture. For
instance, when an acupuncture needle is placed at the pinky toe, the
visual cortex in the brain “lights up" on the MRI scan. This
acupuncture point and its channel of energy flows to the eyes.
“Acupuncture calms precisely the part of the brain that controls the
emotional response to pain,” said Dr. Kathleen K. S. Hui, a
neuroscientist at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at
Massachusetts General Hospital, which has a federal grant to study
acupuncture's effects on the brain. Her brain scan studies show
decreased activation in deeper brain structures in the limbic system,
which governs emotions and other physiological functions; hence the
relaxed, de-stress effect from acupuncture. Researchers have also
shown that acupuncture boosts levels of serotonin, which is often
deficient in people with depression, anxiety, insomnia. Acupuncture
lowers levels of norepinephrine, which are often elevated in sufferers
of stress and pain.
Since the 1970s, Western medical researchers have known that one
of the ways acupuncture works is by releasing endorphins, the body’s
natural painkillers. A recent National Institutes of Health randomized,
controlled study of 570 people with osteoarthritis of the knee, showed
that real acupuncture, as opposed to sham acupuncture and opioids
for pain, provided pain relief and improved function by 40%. This
study can be found in the December 21, 2004 issue of the Annals of
Internal Medicine. Hundreds of thousands of Americans attain pain
relief through acupuncture each year, according to a recent national
survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With the opioid crisis in our country causing drug addiction,
overdoses, and deaths, it is time to turn to acupuncture as our
country’s first line for pain relief! Medicare is considering adding
acupuncture to its plan for low back pain; we should see this in the
next few years as a benefit.
What is acupuncture and how does it work?
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) terms, good health depends
upon two things: an unobstructed flow of energy (Qi) through the
body along 12 major channels of energy, and a balance between the
two life forces — yin (blood/fluids/internal organs) and yang (Qi
energy). Illness or pain occurs when the flow of Qi is blocked, which
leads to blood stagnation, or when one life force dominates the other.
Acupuncture activates the smooth flow of Qi through these channels
of Qi. Hair-thin needles are inserted into the skin at specific points
along the channels to redirect or unblock stagnant Qi and blood.
These acu-points on the pathway of the channels correspond to
different organ systems in the body. An acupuncture treatment is
essentially like connecting the dots to reach the pain spot or disease,
internally and externally, physically and emotionally. The
acupuncture stimulates our circulation to move through the body
towards the central nervous system (spine to brain) to release
endorphins for pain, serotonin for depression, vestibular center for
nausea, and on and on. Most humans undergo stress throughout life,
emotions are involved, and physical problems result, such as stress
induced asthma, panic attacks, insomnia, high blood pressure,
sickness, irritable bowel syndrome, tight and painful muscles,
migraines, PMS, etc. Do these symptoms sound familiar?
Traditional Chinese medicine acknowledges lifestyle choices such as
acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, sleep, digestion, emotional balancing,
and exercise to address stress, pain, etc., which are the root of the
problem. By treating the root cause of dis-ease, the secondary
symptoms subside, and we have vibrant health.