Conditions & Treatment

Acupuncture for Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Kristen Sparrow • September 09, 2020

Why should you care about stress?

Stress can lead to poor health, more pain, worse allergies and other immune problems, and mood problems. It can even shorten your life.

You’ve probably heard that you need to manage your stress but can’t imagine where you’ll find the time it takes to meditate, do biofeedback, take vacation time, or any of the other many “remedies” for stress reduction.

The good news is that acupuncture, when properly done, can lower your stress levels and leave you calmer, sleeping better, in a better mood and even living longer.  Who wouldn’t want that? Feel good, be strong and live long.  So with acupuncture you not only can solve some of your health problems,  but you strengthen your body and mind so that you’re more resilient and resistant to the problems life throws at you.

I have been studying the stress response in the acupuncture for years, this is my focus, my career.  I believe it is a key aspect of optimal health, and hence for people who try to get the most out of their lives both at work and at home.  So, please call me!  I will do my best to get you in as soon as possible!  415.775.0117 or email collinssparrow@cs.com

 

Although stress affects us all in one way or another, it is when it becomes prolonged that it tends to cause the most problems. Acupuncture has been shown to decrease the stress response (see studies below). Stress inherently affects every system in the body from proper digestion and cardiovascular health to the daily functions of the endocrine and immune systems. There are thousands of research articles on the correlation between chronic stress and many diseases.

How many acupuncture treatments will it take to help with stress?

I ask patients to commit to 6 treatments within a month at first.  I also ask patients to see these treatments as an investment in themselves and their health.  Of course, we all worry about the cost of treatment, but especially with acupuncture for anxiety the benefits can be so long lasting that it makes good monetary sense too. Usually, there will be two more weekly treatments and then the treatments can be spaced out to once a month. Many choose to continue weekly, as they would with other types of therapy. Sometimes one can see improvement immediately after treatment, but sometimes it can take a few treatments to improve. It’s important to complete the series; otherwise, you’ve wasted your time and money.

Doesn’t this take a lot of time?

How long are the appointments?”]I treat a  broad spectrum of people from CEO’s, to retirees, to new mothers, to entrepreneurs. They actually look forward to the relaxation, time out, and respite that the treatment affords them. They can bring up any new issues, pains or health issues and we can address them then and there and nip problems in the bud before they develop into something more serious. They see the treatments as a way to ward off problems and keep them calm, balanced and productive.

Do I have to keep having acupuncture treatment for the rest of my life?

It depends. Sometimes people are fine after a treatment series and they are able to space out the visits and eventually stop. But the majority of patients want to continue so that they get the benefit of acupuncture on an ongoing basis.

How do I know if I have stress-related problems?

  • Muscle Tension / Headaches / TMJ / Back Pain
  • Cold Extremities / Tingling
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Fatigue
  • Heart Palpitations / Shortness of Breath
  • Increased or Decreased Blood Pressure / Dizziness
  • Sugar Cravings / Low Blood Sugar
  • Decreased Immunity / Frequent Colds or Illness

Emotional symptoms such as:

  • Anger / Aggression
  • Anxiety / Panic Attacks
  • Insomnia / Excessive Sleep
  • Depression
  • Helplessness
  • Excessive Worry
  • Indifference / Apathy
  • Irritability / Moodiness / Involuntary Crying
  • Pessimism

Although stress affects us all in one way or another, it is when it becomes prolonged that it tends to cause the most problems, and prolonged anxiety issues can wreak havoc on your life, your sleep and your general outlook. How can acupuncture help?   Research studies (see below) confirm what acupuncture patients have observed. The treatment itself is relaxing, and there is often a feeling of calm, and control, afterwards.  Though this can be beneficial in and of itself, it may be key in how acupuncture helps the body to heal itself, improve mood, and to increase longevity. Often patients are able to give up their anti-depressants and pain killers. though that is not required.

One of my patients says,

I was having trouble driving on the freeway.  I often would start to get sick to my stomach and nervous. I had heard a lot about Dr Sparrow and so finally went to see her.  Once I had a few treatments (she uses tiny needles on me since I’m so sensitive) I started to feel much better and my symptom went away.  I go and see her now every week because it has been so helpful and I feel so much better in so many ways.”*

*results, as with all aspects of medicine, vary from patient to patient

Stress inherently affects every system in the body from proper digestion and cardiovascular health to the daily functions of the endocrine and immune systems. There are thousands of research articles on the correlation between chronic stress and many diseases.

Dr. Sparrow’s blog covers many associated issues concerning stress, anxiety and depression.

What is the stress response?

The Sympathetic nervous system, which becomes activated in times of “fright or flight” goes into action during fright, fight, or flight. The “Parasympathetic” of the autonomic nervous system is involved in the restorative functions in the body.

For example, when we are startled by the growl of a dog, there is an almost instantaneous increase in heart rate, all senses are tuned in, and we’re suddenly full of energy and able to either run in a panic or fight off an attack. This is a result of the sympathetic nervous system. But this sudden surge of energy comes at a price. Energy is diverted from regenerative functions of the body. Functions that are not required in the short term for the “fight or flight” are suspended. No digestion, reproduction, or immune functions (why fight a cold if you aren’t going to live another hour?) are undertaken.

So imagine if the sympathetic arm of the nervous system was triggered on an ongoing basis. You would see myopathy and fatigue (from being in overdrive), hypertension (from cardiac stimulation), ulceration and digestive disorders (from digestion being a low priority), infertility, amenorrhea, decreased libido (from decreased reproduction), increased disease risk (decreased immunity), and neuron death (brain damage.) in fact, the above are some of the side effects of prolonged stress.

What is the evidence for stress and disease?

Effect of Stress on Longevity

The stress response is also implicated in accelerating aging. It has been shown has shown that stress can cause accelerated aging in the hippocampus, an area in the brain. A recent study by a San Francisco team has shown that stressed mothers (mothers of disabled children) showed advanced aging on a cellular level compared to their non-stressed counterparts.   (This concept is in alignment with the teachings of traditional Chinese medicine. One attempts to balance one’s life to preserve their essence (jing) to prolong their life.)

Stress & Depression

If you stress a Lab Rat; it will take a stronger electrical current than expected to activate their sense of pleasure. Stress can have the same effect in humans; i.e. stressed, depressed patients have trouble feeling pleasure, or happiness.

This concept is in alignment with the teachings of traditional Chinese medicine. If the spirit is not healthy, the body cannot heal.)

Effect of Stress on Immunity

It is fairly well established that stress can alter the immune response in animals and in humans. It alters T cell function and can alter the healing process. This can show up in a multitude of ways in the health of an individual. Chronic stress can be damaging to the organism because when of long duration, the response itself can damage the system.

Is there any proof that acupuncture actually lowers the stress response?

Besides Dr. Sparrow’s own research showing that a decrease in stress response during acupuncture treatment correlates with successful outcomes there are the following studies:

  • In Germany they showed that needle acupuncture caused a calming of the sympathetic nervous system in-patients with minor depression or anxiety disorder.
  • A Swedish study established that after acupuncture blood flow to the uterus increased and alleviated infertility due to a decrease in sympathetic nervous system activity.
  • In China they showed that acupuncture calmed the sympathetic nervous system in drivers.