Acupuncture Benefits: A Deep Look into How Acupuncture Can Help You
Updated: Jul 21, 2020
At first, some people may be concerned or apprehensive about pressing needles into their body as a form of holistic treatment. Further to this, there was a time when many people had reservations over whether acupuncture even worked. But when you look at how it has grown in popularity over the past decade and look at the many acupuncture benefits, it is no wonder that it is now widely accepted among the medical community.
According to WebMD, 3.5 million Americans have had acupuncture treatment in the past year. The therapy has been practised in China for thousands of years to restore the flow of Qi, which in turn, restores physical health and wellbeing.
From a scientific point of view, acupuncture stimulates nerves under the skin and muscular tissues. When it comes to acupuncture benefits, it can treat many different conditions and symptoms, including:
Chronic tension headaches and migraines
Lower back pain
Here at Sivan Acupuncture & Shiatsu, we focus on treating health disorders through acupuncture such as anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, and stress. In this article, we will look at acupuncture benefits and real success stories of how it can treat anxiety, insomnia, and depression.
Top 4 Acupuncture Benefits
Let's look at the acupuncture benefits for insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks and stress relief, going into detail about how acupuncture can help with each.
1. Acupuncture Benefits for Anxiety
How does acupuncture improve or help anxiety?
Acupuncture is a therapy designed for the nervous system. Chinese medicine focuses on caring for both body and mind without pharmaceutical drugs. According to Chinese medicine, anxiety is mostly caused by a dysfunction of the spleen, heart, liver, or kidneys. Many factors, including what we consume, and our lifestyle can impair the function of one or more of these organs and, as a result, lead to different forms of anxiety. It doesn't mean to say there is an actual problem with the organ itself; it's just a different way of understanding how the body and mind work.
Acupuncture helps anxiety by:
Increasing endomorphin-1, beta-endorphin, serotonin, and encephalin – all causing analgesia and sedation.
Improving the circulation of the blood, which, in turn, helps to oxygenate body tissue, removing cortisol and waste chemicals too.
Lowering the heart rate, reducing blood pressure, and relaxing your muscles.
The needles used in acupuncture are super thin, literally the width of two human hairs at most. The needles are then strategically inserted into your skin for your unique problems with anxiety. It is relatively painless, with most of my patients not even noticing when they are inserted.
From the plethora of medical studies performed in the West to understand whether acupuncture works, evidence shows that a course of acupuncture may indeed help those suffering from anxiety. For example, A 2004 study by Spence et al found that acupuncture improves anxiety levels as measured by the STAI scale.
The same study shows that five weeks of acupuncture significantly increased nocturnal secretion of endogenous melatonin, helping to improve sleep time and efficiency.
2. Acupuncture Benefits for Insomnia
From a Chinese medicine perspective, insomnia and other sleep problems are a symptom of dysfunction of one of your body's organs; again this is not to say that there is a problem with the organ itself. As with anxiety, sleep is most affected by the liver, heart, or kidneys. Insomnia can also be a result of your lifestyle and nutrition. It has to do with emotions (connected to excessive anxiety or anger). If you experience intense anxiety or anger, it can impair the function of one or more of these organs and lead to insomnia.
Acupuncture may help to combat insomnia because it:
Spurs the production of melatonin, a hormone that controls your sleep and wake cycles
Boosts production of γ-aminobutyric acid, which enhances the quality of sleep
Decreases activity of the sympathetic nervous system, in turn, encouraging relaxation
Controls various neurotransmitters such as serotonin and noradrenaline, serving to balance mood, also promoting relaxation
So, how long does it take for acupuncture to help with your sleeping patterns? Well, most of my clients notice a notable change in their sleep patterns after just a few acupuncture sessions, and some will start sleeping better after only two sessions. How it affects you, depends on the severity of your insomnia and the mental and physical difficulties that may be causing it.
3. Acupuncture Benefits for Panic Attacks
Panic attacks can be tied into anxiety – particularly panic disorders. Acupuncture for the therapy of panic attacks can have an immediate impact on patients' lives.
Often, from the time of the very first acupuncture treatment, the patient has a decrease in the regularity, severity and duration of panic attacks.
Other ways of dealing with anxiety include learning how to stop a panic attack brought on by fear or stress.
Firstly, one should be aware that they are experiencing an anxiety attack. You will probably find it hard to breathe, start shaking, have an increased heart rate that you will be able to feel physically, or sweat heavily. Depending on how bad the panic attack is, you may even feel totally disconnected from reality.
Here are some efficient ways to deal with a panic attack when in the moment:
Understand that there is nothing physically wrong with you. You are safe; it is just a wave of emotions taking on a physical form
Take three deep breaths: inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Wait for 10 seconds and do it over again until the panic starts to subside - until you feel yourself coming back.
Try standing up and start moving around a little bit. You can do this by rotating your neck, shoulders, and arms. Shake your arms and legs a little – a great release for tension.
Find a secure and private space and don't be afraid to cry if you need to. The relief is imminent; it won't last forever.
4. Acupuncture Benefits for Stress
So, you're wondering whether acupuncture can reduce your stress levels? If you are suffering from intense stress or anxiety, it's essential to understand that both conditions are similar, with the primary difference being the amount of time that symptoms last.
If you experience from short-term periods of any (or all) of the following symptoms, then one possible reason can be stress:
Sore stomach and IBS
Heartbeat speeding up
Migraines or headaches
What exactly are the acupuncture benefits for stress?
Acupuncture is a form of therapy for the nervous system. Acupuncture treatment focuses on caring for your body and mind without pharmaceutical medication.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, the liver and heart almost always cause anxiety, stress and panic attacks. Factors such as lifestyle and nutrition can weaken the function of these organs and lead to anxiety or stress.
Acupuncture benefits for stress include:
Increasing levels of endomorphin-1, beta-endorphin, encephalin, and serotonin. These hormones cause analgesia and sedation
Improving the circulation of the blood, helping to oxygenate body tissue and remove cortisol and waste chemicals
Lowering the heart rate, relaxing muscles, and reducing blood pressure
Does acupuncture really help stress? There have been many medical studies performed in the West to understand whether acupuncture really works for a variety of conditions. Evidence from these shows that a course of acupuncture helps people experiencing mass amounts of stress.
As an example, in a trial conducted by ASU Health Services, 111 patients with high-stress levels were randomized into a sham acupuncture group and a verum acupuncture group.
Acupuncture sessions were then given to each group weekly. Before treatment, each patient completed the Cohen's global measure of perceived stress scale (PSS-14). They then completed the Cohen's global measure of perceived stress scale at six weeks, at twelve weeks, and six weeks and twelve weeks post-treatment completion.
The results showed that those treated with the verum acupuncture showed a significantly higher treatment effect than the sham acupuncture group, and the effects lasted for at least three months after treatment was concluded.
Why So Many People Are Using Acupuncture for Anxiety
Several studies about the effects of acupuncture on anxiety, focused mostly on generalised anxiety disorder, suggest that acupuncture helps treat general anxiety. These studies show hope for acupuncture as a viable and safe therapeutic solution, especially for those who have tried other methods and are still enduring anxiety regularly.
I cannot stress enough that acupuncture treatments should be repeated and are not a once-off solution. You cannot simply do one session of acupuncture and never experience anxiety again. That's not how it works. Some people report immediate changes, but most notice subtle and gradual changes with repeated sessions. It is ongoing but can most certainly help.
Acupuncture for Insomnia: Helping You Get A Good Night's Rest
The best way to show you the acupuncture benefits for insomnia is by sharing some of my clients' real-life success stories with you.
In this particular success story, Rebecca, one of my clients, was distressed because of the sleep issues she had developed in the previous year. It had started during a time when her relationship with her companion ended, and she switched jobs.
Medication that she had been prescribed was not helping at all. Her doctor then advised antidepressants, but she didn't want to mask her difficulties with medicine. She wanted to treat it naturally. As a result, she came to me for acupuncture.
After just four sessions, Rebecca informed me that she was now able to sleep comfortably and fall asleep quickly and that she was no longer suffering from disturbed or restless sleeping.
After a few months, I followed up with her, and the improvement in her sleep had been sustained.
Acupuncture is proven by studies to be a powerful and natural remedy for insomnia.
As I've said before, acupuncture reduces anxiety, stimulates melatonin production, influences sleep onset, and reduces sleep disruption.
This amounts to more sleep, more regularly.
Acupuncture for Stress: Does It Help?
Research shows acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system, assisting with the natural release of natural bodily chemicals which alters the way a person feels stress, pain and anger. In 2003, the World Health Organization did a study on acupuncture benefits and reported that acupuncture affects the body on multiple levels, including the activation of a person's natural opioid system. In short, this means stimulating the following:
The hypothalamus and pituitary gland
Altering neurotransmitters that positively influence your brain chemistry
Acupuncture essentially deactivates parts of your mind, decreasing neural activity, enabling the limbic system to physically change your body's experience by shutting down pain and stress regions in your brain. Incredible stuff!
By addressing your body's balance of qi, you will feel a great sense of relaxation and calm after acupuncture.
What Can Acupuncture Treat?
In addition to what I focus on here at Sivan Acupuncture & Shiatsu, acupuncture treats a broad range of conditions, including the ones below:
Headaches and migraines
Lower back pain
My primary focus is on stress and anxiety relief. Still, as supported by Mayo Clinic, acupuncture may be able to treat a whole host of conditions.
Does Acupuncture Help Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea may lead to the following:
Cardiac and metabolic conditions
Sleep apnea is a severe condition. In some cases, acupuncture may be useful for the treatment of it.
According to studies, acupuncture is a reliable and verified alternative option for the treatment of sleep apnea. It can also help people who find sleeping with a CPAP machine challenging.
Acupuncture is also useful for treating the side effects of sleep apnea such as fatigue and poor quality of sleep.
What Is Shiatsu Massage Good For?
Shiatsu massage is based on the same principles of acupuncture, derived from Japanese traditional medicine. Aimed at relieving physical and emotional tensions, one can undoubtedly achieve better health and wellbeing through Shiatsu.
Picture your body being made up of motorways, just like it's made up of a network of blood vessels. Your pain or illness is like a traffic jam on the highway.
When traffic is congested, it's painful and frustrating, to say the least.
The principles of Shiatsu serve as a road map that gives the practitioner access to those motorways to get the traffic flowing freely once again, in turn, easing your pain and stress, resulting in optimum health and wellbeing.
Shiatsu helps with several physical and emotional issues through:
Releasing muscle tension, therefore reducing pain, such as neck and shoulder pain
Inducing you into a state of deep relaxation, helping with anxiety and depression
Helping you reach a deeper therapeutic level than massage, working on the same principles as acupuncture does, therefore helping with conditions like insomnia and Premenstrual Syndrome
Take this real-life success story, for example:
One of my clients Maria, had been struggling with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks for a year. At the time she was in her early 30s.
Most days, she would break into tears for no obvious reason. Further to this, she was suffering from painful migraines and stabbing pains in her chest every day too.
As you can imagine, these mental health issues affected most areas of her life profoundly, resulting in many missed days from work.
She came to me, and we combined acupuncture with Shiatsu. After ten sessions, Maria had made meaningful progress during her treatment.
She was much less anxious and no longer cried for no apparent reason. Additionally, her headaches had subsided in both frequency and severity.
Even more profound was that through her improved state, she began to realise that her depression was connected to her work. No longer being preoccupied with her severe headaches and stabbing pains, she now had the clarity to address the real source of her mental health issues.
Is Acupuncture Effective
In addition to the information above, the best way to find out if acupuncture is effective is to try out the treatment yourself.
I encourage you to book an appointment with me; acupuncture may be the first step towards a less stressful life.